Bottoms Up!

Wait, Have We Been Drinking Water Wrong All Along? TikTok Seems To Think So

Experts have a lot to say about this viral hydration advice.

Originally Published: 
TikTok influencers claim hot water hydrates better than ice water, but experts disagree.
Jirattawut Domrong/EyeEm/Getty Images

Another day, another TikTok advisory, amirite? So, what are the TikTok "health experts" telling us now? Well, apparently, we've been drinking water all wrong. That's right — everyone and their brother's wife's nephew's mother-in-law seems to have "tips" and advice on the right and wrong ways to drink water. But buyer beware; most of it is nonsense.

When it comes to hydrating, real experts are all in agreement: Just drink water. Always be drinking water. Never stop drinking water. Drink water until you feel like you've had enough water for the day... then you probably need to drink two more glasses. Yet one of the latest viral trends on TikTok comes from "health experts" telling viewers the best way to hydrate.

TikTok's Water Myths

Not surprisingly, there's a lot of misinformation out there, and as is always the case, just because someone says they're an "expert" doesn't mean they are. Internet health advice cannot replace your doctor's advice. Besides, the experts Scary Mommy polled for this piece agree — there's no wrong way to drink water. But since that's not what many TikTok health influencers would have you believe, keep reading for all the information you never knew you needed about water-drinking myths and how to hydrate properly.

Myth 1: Cold water doesn't hydrate.

This got a resounding "false" from experts.

"There is no right or wrong way to drink water," says Juliana Tamayo, a registered dietitian (RD), MS, and editor at Fitness Clone. "Water will always be hydrating whether it is cold or hot. In certain cases, drinking water after a long workout, such as running a marathon, is not ideal because the body will not receive enough electrolytes to replenish what is lost. In these cases, a sports drink is warranted. Cold water is often more efficient than hot water, especially after a workout."

What about the TikToks out there claiming you should drink warm or hot water so that your body doesn't have to work as hard? Or that you should add salt to your water to give your body an electrolyte boost?

"In fact, drinking hot water after strenuous activity can lead to further dehydration because the body sweats more when drinking hot water," Tamayo explains. "Also, adding salt to water is unnecessary. Most Americans eat enough sodium through their diet and do not need any excess sodium. If you are in need of sodium, you are likely also in need of potassium and other electrolytes, and in that case, a sports drink like Gatorade or LiquidIV is better."

Myth 2: Hot water is better for hydration.

Not exactly, although hot water can still be useful in some instances.

"There are some specific instances when hot water is a better choice," says Tamayo. "In cases of indigestion or achalasia (impaired esophagus), hot water can go down easier than cold water, which might cause pain. Adding lemon or ginger to your hot water can also help with digestion. This is one of those instances when you should really trust professionals and experts and not believe every trend on TikTok."

So, hot water can help indigestion but is not worse or better for hydration.

Myth 3: If you're drinking a lot and peeing a lot, you're dehydrated.

No, sis. Your body can only hold and absorb so much. Peeing is part of the game of life. It may seem like you're "peeing it all out," but if you measured your intake and output, you would absolutely find a difference.

"When urine production increases, it's due to extra water not needed by the body," says Tok-Hui Yeap, RD, CSP, LD, of Kinder Nutrition. "When you are dehydrated, you don't pee as much to conserve fluid balance."

Myth 4: You should add salt to your water to boost electrolytes.

Salt is, indeed, one way to boost your electrolytes. However, you probably already know how dangerous it can be for someone who consumes too much salt. For that reason alone, adding salt to your water can be a risky game to play. So, what do experts say about the now-viral assertion that you should add salt to your water?

According to dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, and author of Belly Fat Diet, the "misinformation" that you should add one tablespoon of salt to your water each morning can be dangerous in general — and especially "to those with high blood pressure and/or kidney disease."

Palinski-Wade elaborates, "Consuming one tablespoon a day of any salt, including Himalayan salt, is too much sodium! This salt contains 1680 mg of sodium per teaspoon, which is 5040 mg of sodium in one tablespoon! The daily recommendation for sodium is 2300 mg a day. This is a dangerous recommendation that can lead to elevated blood pressure, water retention, and bone loss."

Of course, while suggesting one or two tablespoons of salt in a glass of water might be excessive, some experts suggest that adding salt to your water can be helpful.

"Salt contains several essential minerals the body needs to properly (and optimally) function," says Kristen Alvis, a board-certified holistic health practitioner and certified nutritionist specializing in functional nutrition. "Minerals help the body in a number of ways. I wouldn't necessarily say the body 'can't absorb water effectively' when dehydrated, but adding salt will indeed help the body better absorb and make use of the water."

Actually worried you're "dehydrated" and need electrolytes? There are better (and more flavorful) ways. Aside from the likes of Pedialyte, Gatorade, and Powerade, there are also multiple brands of drops and powders you can add to your water that will boost electrolytes.

"If [they are] recommending that much salt, that cup of water would be soooo salty. Like, no one would reasonably drink that every morning... you'd never want to wake up!" says Daniel Schindler, who developed Buoy, one such hydration drop available. "It is true that your body can't absorb water effectively if you're low on electrolytes. Hydration = fluids + electrolytes. We wake up dehydrated because sleep causes us to lose both water and electrolytes (and we don't replenish any of it while sleeping). Sea salt or Himalayan salt is the best way to get your electrolytes because it isn't processed like table salt or 'mined salt' (which is just a fancy way of saying table salt), and these natural salt sources come with amazing micronutrients that our bodies need now more than ever! Why? Modern agriculture strips out most of the micronutrients from the soil that our bodies need."

A Final Note About Social Media Experts

Most social media "experts" aren't trying to kill you; they genuinely believe what they say is true. When it comes to your health, though, there are two things to keep in mind. No. 1, science evolves, and you never know how up-to-date a person is on their training. No. 2, that "expert" isn't an expert on you.

Always, always, always talk to a doctor (preferably yours) before changing up your health and nutrition routines. What works for one person may not work for another.

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