The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Busting Hydration Myths

Busting Hydration Myths

Dietitian Dialogues

December 28, 2008

 When it comes to myths and misconceptions about food and nutrition, no category is exempt, including beverages and hydration. The newest Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for Water was released nearly five years ago in February 2004 by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (IOM-NAS), yet consumers still cling to older beliefs and practices when choosing beverages to keep them hydrated. Help educate your shoppers by busting these inaccurate myths with updated, accurate scientific information.

Myth: You need eight glasses of water daily to stay hydrated. 
Fact: Adult males and females actually need more than 8 cups of fluid daily.

The average adult male actually needs 16 cups of total water daily; the average adult female needs 11.5 cups. These recommendations are for healthy, sedentary people in temperate climates. This base requirement is increased accordingly with regular exercise, a physically demanding job or hot and humid climates.

Furthermore, that “total water” requirement is an 80/20 mix of beverages and foods. The IOM-NAS advises that about 80 percent of people’s total water comes from drinking water and other beverages. The other 20 percent should come from food. Eighty percent of the total 16 cups is 13 cups of total beverages daily for men and 9 cups for women. This refers to total beverages, not just water, which leads to the next major misconception.

Myth: Only water hydrates. 
Fact: All beverages provide hydration.

Absolutely every type of beverage provides hydration, or water content. Those nine cups of total beverages for women and 13 cups for men can be comprised of milk, juice, soft drinks, coffee, tea, sports drinks, energy drinks and regular and flavored water. Consumers are thrilled to know their four cups of coffee or that afternoon diet cola is hydrating, but remain skeptical due to the major myth surrounding caffeine and hydration.

Myth: Caffeine is dehydrating.
Fact: Caffeine is not dehydrating.

The IOM-NAS guidelines concluded that caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks contribute to total daily water intake similar to beverages without caffeine. While caffeine may have a mild, short-term diuretic effect lasting just three to five days in people who do not normally consume caffeine, studies have shown this is not the case for people who regularly consume caffeine. Simply put, the fluid in the beverage itself cancels out any fluid loss from the body.

One of the most valuable tools for supermarket shoppers to learn about proper hydration is the Hydration Calculator at The Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness website. ( This interactive calculator allows them to determine individual hydration needs based on activity level, intensity and even outside temperature.

Myth: Dehydration in the winter isn’t really an issue.
Fact: Winter activities can easily lead to dehydration.

Many people lose more fluid than they realize when it comes to vigorous outdoor wintertime activities like skiing, ice skating, snowboarding and snow shoveling. These high intensity activities - plus layers of clothing - lead to sweating and fluid loss, just like summertime heat and humidity. Altitude also affects hydration. Higher elevations cause harder and more frequent breathing, resulting in loss of more body fluids. Drinking plenty of fluid before, during and after all winter activities is critical.

Kim Galeaz, RD CD, is an Indianapolis-based Registered Dietitian and Culinary Nutrition Consultant and has consulted to the Kroger Company Central Division since 1995. She helps teach shoppers about balanced, nutrient-rich eating through writing, speaking and radio and television appearances for Kroger.


As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at And here's something else to get excited about. If we use your guest column, we'll give you a free iPod.