With the scorching summer months bringing sweltering temperatures to the city, Houstonians are staying hydrated with the planet’s most ready-to-drink beverage. But while water may seem like a straightforward choice for anyone looking to cool down, there’s more to the drink than we might think. Dietitian Moe Schlachter of Houston Family Nutrition shares some insights about staying hydrated as the summer blazes on.
First, the basics: is one kind of water better than the rest? Between tap, bottled, alkaline, and sparkling water, there are plenty of options to choose from—whether every option is equally good is a different story. Cases in which tap water was declared unsafe to drink have clouded its reputation in some markets, and sparkling water’s bubbly similarity to carbonated soft drinks has raised some eyebrows, particularly with regard to dental hygiene. Alkaline water has been lauded in some quarters recently as the healthiest water out there, but the jury is still out on everyday consumption. And don’t get us started on the discrepancies between different bottled water brands; Dasani, for one, has had to deal with vociferous detractors for what they deem its infamously bad taste.
Safety regulations exist to ensure that whichever water you fill your cup with, chances are, it’s good to drink. Still, there are some things to keep an eye out for. Dasani water is safe to drink and may be a little more acidic than other brands (hence the taste that some people dislike), but Houston Family Nutrition recommends natural spring waters like Evian as your best bet for taste and purity. If you’re going the tap water route, make sure to keep an eye out for any city notices—Schlachter notes that although there are few differences between the standards for bottled and tap water, tap water quality does occasionally dip below recommended safety levels, as it did in Houston last year. And while current research points toward sparkling water being just as hydrating as still water, that doesn’t mean you should replace all of the water you drink with San Pellegrino. “We recommend a combination of regular water with sparkling water and to monitor individual experiences with each,” Schlachter says.
We recommend a combination of regular water with sparkling water and to monitor individual experiences with each.
Alkaline water is where things get a bit trickier: there’s not enough research to pinpoint exactly what guidelines should be in place for the high-pH drink. The main concern is the sodium bicarbonate sometimes used to make water alkaline. “Your body will adjust to compensate for the pH change to maintain your body’s balance, so there is little definite danger to drinking it,” Schlachter explains. “Of course, overhydration itself can pose a risk, and adding sodium-bicarbonate water to a high-sodium diet can contribute to high blood pressure.”
Speaking of overhydration, it’s important to keep in mind the line between keeping our thirst quenched and consuming quantities that may risk our health. The key to maintaining that perfect level of hydration lies in electrolytes—the minerals that help regulate fluid balance, nerve signal conduction, and chemical reactions. In other words, electrolytes are essential to the function of our cells and organs. The problem arises when you drink more water than your body expects, literally watering down the electrolytes.
“Our bodies maintain electrolytes in balance with our typical water intake. Therefore, someone who has conditioned their body to expect a liter of water per day may experience symptoms of fluid electrolyte imbalance if they suddenly chug a gallon of water,” Schlachter says. “In extreme cases, a water overload can dilute electrolytes so much that nerve and neuron signaling can get interrupted and pose a serious health risk.”
So exactly how much water should you be drinking? While you may have heard that eight glasses of water a day is a good rule to go by, Schlachter warns that it’s not so simple. “Each person’s hydration needs are unique and can vary based on several different factors, including age, activity level, and your diet,” Schlachter says. “In general, you should take a third of your body weight and drink that number in ounces a day.”