In a world that's kind of obsessed with hydration, the idea of refusing to drink water feels a little taboo. But in reality, there are a few instances in which you shouldn't drink water for your health. In these very specific scenarios, downing another bottle of water may do more harm than good.
That said, the general trend toward better hydration is a positive thing overall. So how much water should you drink each day? Well, that simple question does not have a simple answer. As far as average, healthy adults are concerned, the adequate fluid daily intake is 15.5 cups for males and 11.5 cups for females, according to the Mayo Clinic. That said, other health experts simply tell people to drink when they're thirsty, trusting the brain's thirst mechanism to do all the work, according to Healthline. And if you're working out, well, that's a whole other question. Although the exact amounts will vary depending on the individual and their activities, it's generally a good idea to drink 7 to 10 ounces of water for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, according to the the University of Michigan's MHealthy Physical Activity Program. For something as simple as water intake, there are a ton of different ideas and recommendations.
There are, however, some times when it's clear that more water is not the answer. Read on to learn more about when you should step back from the tap.
1. Right Before Bed
Chugging a ton of water right before bed could lead to some disruptions in your sleep. In the medical community, an intense urge to urinate that wakes you more than once at night is known as nocturia, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Although this issue can be caused by certain health conditions (such as a bladder obstruction), drinking too much right before bed can also lead to nocturia. Restricting fluids in the evenings is one way to help manage it. Of course, if anything about your nightly bathroom habits become concerning, then speak with your healthcare provider for advice.
2. When You've Already Had A Lot At Once
Even when it comes to drinking water, you can have too much of a good thing. In some very rare cases, it's possible to drink such an extreme amount of water at once that the sodium level in blood drops dangerously low, according to WebMD. This is called hyponatremia. The process of drinking water to the point of these dangerous levels is also known as water intoxication.
For the most part, an average, healthy person nursing a 16 ounce water bottle throughout the morning is not at risk for water intoxication. However, a person competing in a water-drinking contest, as well as a college student going through an extreme water-drinking hazing ritual, have succumbed to death by water intoxication, according to Scientific American. However, it's important to remember that these individuals drank very high amounts of water at once.
Although the exact amount of water it takes to cause intoxication depends on a lot of variables, it's estimated that about a gallon and a half of water is enough to cause this problem in a person weighing 165 pounds, according to the American Chemical Society's Reactions video. However — and this is the crucial part — the person would need to drink all that water at once in order to cause serious health issues. The vast majority of people will never have to deal with the rare (although admittedly scary) condition of water toxicity.
3. Right Before Surgery
Many people go into surgery with strict rules against eating or drinking anything, even water, a few hours beforehand. Why is this? "Your stomach should be empty during surgery," wrote anesthesiologist Dr. Ram Roth in Mount Sinai Inside. "An empty stomach reduces the chances of an aspiration and its complications. An aspiration is when stomach contents are expelled up the esophagus (food pipe) into the lungs (wind pipe)." Although rolling into surgery all thirsty may be annoying, it's really for your benefit. If you or a loved one has any questions about what to eat or drink before an upcoming surgery, speak with your medical team for advice.
4. During Endurance Events
There's one type of activity that does increase the risk of water intoxication for average, healthy adults, and these are endurance events. More specifically known as exercise-induced hyponatremia (EAH), this describes the drop in blood sodium concentration that can develop during or immediately following physical activity, according to Frontiers In Medicine. Ultramarathon runners and Ironman triathlon competitors, whose races take hours to complete, were among the first athletes diagnosed with EAH, as further explained in Frontiers in Medicine. In more recent years, however, people participating in team sports, shorter races, and yoga have shown symptoms of this condition as well. It looks like the majority of athletes who develop EAH simply ingest too much fluid over the course of working out. However, it can be so tricky to strike the right balance of hydration in one of these events, especially when nerves, crowds, and even temperature fluctuations come into play. If you're an endurance athlete, then consider talking to your trusted trainer or doctor for advice about proper hydration.
Although there are definitely some specific instances in which it's best to avoid drinking water, for the most part H2O is a perfectly lovely beverage. For most people, maintaining a healthy hydration habit every day is totally fine.