Intermittent drinking? Stay Thirsty!

Intermittent drinking? Stay Thirsty!

Hydration is an often underrated aspect of most lifestyle plans. "Drink a lot and as often as you can!" is an often heard general advice. It's quite contradictory that, now that the clock has been set to winter time and temperatures are dropping, the risk of dehydration lurks around the corner. In this blog, I tell you how to stay hydrated, the right way!
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Hydration is an often underrated aspect of most lifestyle plans. "Drink a lot and as often as you can!" is an often heard general advice.  It's quite contradictory that, now that the clock has been set to winter time and temperatures are dropping, the risk of dehydration lurks around the corner. In this blog, I tell you how to stay hydrated, the right way!

Causes of dehydration

Before we dive into the deep it is important to know what causes dehydration. Dehydration is in fact caused by excessive water loss or insufficient water intake. From a physiological point of view, several factors can contribute to dehydration, of which urinating and sweating at high temperatures are quite obvious ones. However, there are other factors that can cause dehydration. Diarrhea, for instance, goes along with excessive water excretion - pretty obvious if you analyse your stools, I’d say...


And there is another, quite remarkable one: cold winter weather. During winter times, in those areas where temperatures drop, humidity decreases. Low humidity means that the air ‘extracts’ water from our bodies, as it were. This evaporation via the skin promotes dehydration.

It is not hard to imagine that the combination of a low ambient humidity (winter) with relatively high indoor temperatures (super-controlled, constant 20°+ C indoor) has a synergistic effect on dehydration. Since this is not always compensated for through water intake, hydration requires some extra attention, even at this time of the year!

Why water is most crucial

Our bodies largely consist of water. It is present in all of our cells, where it creates cell volume: without water our organs, muscles or brains for instance, would be no more than limp cell structures without shape. Inside the cells, water regulates transport of all types of nutrients and molecules. Like in our blood (which also largely consists of water): water is the transporter of nutrients and toxic waste materials.

Doc. fact: "Water loss via breath varies between 10-20 mL per hour. This might seem insignificant, but mind you that this equals 240-480 mL per day during rest. That's a quarter to half a liter! Note that an increased heart rate - for instance during exercise or when performing household activities - increases that amount times four!"

Why water loss causes serious harm

We lose water on a daily basis. It leaves our bodies with urine, sweat and in our breath. On cold winter days, you can easily see water vapor accumulating on a cold window when breathing into it. Imagine the amounts of water leaving your lungs after a full day of breathing. Let alone what happens when you participate in sports, for instance.

Continuous loss of water without replenishment leads to accumulation of toxic substances. It affects mood, memory, motor skills in the acute phase [1-4] and can even reduce organ function after prolonged exposure to dehydration.

It explains why we experience dizziness, loss of focus, headaches and reduced performance when drinking insufficiently. It also explains why sufficient water replenishment on a daily basis is crucial.

Why you've been doing wrong!

Somewhere in the 70’s, anthropologist Claude Paque published a paper on water consumption in a Saharan tribe. The paper was called, Water consumption in Saharan nomads. A remarkably reduced and constant consumption. As its title already revealed, this tribe had a ‘reduced’ water intake compared to what we perceive ‘normal’: half the consumption of the Europeans living in the same environment [5,6] (which had nothing to do with genetics)!

Although even in such a harsh environment, the consumption of water can be minimal, we still insist on drinking large volumes of water every day. Current recommendations state that we need to drink 1.5-2.0 litres water (or up to 8 glasses of water) per day [7,8]. As such, we drink and drink throughout the day. One bottle every hour or so. In popular belief, high (not: adequate) water intake has not only been linked to health maintenance, but also to exercise performance and weight loss. Some even drink up to 8 liters per day, for "more is better", isn't it?

This common knowledge to drink tiny bits every 30 mins. has made us

  1. heavily dependent on water, furthermore it
  2. causes excessive drinking behaviour, so we drink more than we need (I’m talking water here ;-) )

Furthermore, it is

  1. scientifically unfounded [6] and therefore  
  2. it is not necessary.

Not necessary? Yes, I hear you thinking! Especially because you probably experience symptoms of dehydration (headache, dizziness) even after skipping 1 or 2 'water moments'. To make sure you stay hydrated, the protocol to adhere to is as simple as it is effective and it helps you with:

  1. Hormonal reorganisation to rapidly adjust to a more natural water intake
  2. Rapid rehydration

Understanding the nature of human drinking behaviour

To better understand why constant drinking during the day is obsolete think about this: Our ancestors didn't carry plastic bottles with them all day. Neither did they have such things as 'drinking recommendations', or continuous accessibility to water. Yet they weren't chronically dehydrated.

That's because our human bodies are capable of regulating water excretion, based on the consumption.  Simply stated: The less often we drink, the less often we urinate. But also: the more often we drink during the day, the more often we urinate and the more water we excrete. You might recognise it yourself: frequent toilet visits as a result of your continuous water consumption. Then, once you stop drinking, all of a sudden you feel weak and experience headaches and what else!

Why bulk drinking is good for you

Less frequent "bulk drinking", can be a good way to regulate your water metabolism. Bulk drinking means drinking less often, without necessarily drinking less compared to all-day continuous "sipping". It is the type of drinking behaviour we see in babies and in animals (als called waterhole drinking). Infants and animals suffer "real" thirst, before drinking. They don't engage in drinking for social or taste reasons (tea, coffee or anything else). Their thirst is mainly based on changes in salt concentrations and body water volumes (blood volume). These changes influence behaviour and the immune system, as well as how our body responds to stress [9].  

Doc. fact: "This type of drinking is also called  "water hole drinking", as it resembles behaviour seen in animals going from water hole to water hole. Animals drink up to satiety every time they drink, just as infants do. This is in contrast with most of us who drink small amounts of liquids, often numerous times every day".

What to do? Stay thirsty!

I’m quite aware of the fact that bulk drinking is not in line with all kinds of recommendations for proper hydration. But does that mean that you have to dehydrate yourself? No: read again!

  1. Drink intermittently...
  2. only when thirsty and then...
  3. drink, until completely full!

Good luck, stay thirsty ;-)



  1. Armstrong, L.E., Ganio, M.S., Casa, D.J., Lee, E.C., McDermott, B.P., Klau, J.F., Jimenez, L., Le Bellego, L., Chevillotte, E. & Lieberman, H.R. (2012) Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. J. Nutr. 142, 382–388
  2. Benton, D., Jenkins, K. T., Watkins, H. T., & Young, H. A. (2016). Minor degree of hypohydration adversely influences cognition: a mediator analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 104(3), 603–612.
  3. Gopinathan, P. M., Pichan, G., & Sharma, V. M. (1988). Role of dehydration in heat stress-induced variations in mental performance. Archives of environmental health, 43(1), 15–17.
  4. Magee, P. J., Gallagher, A. M., & McCormack, J. M. (2017). High Prevalence of Dehydration and Inadequate Nutritional Knowledge Among University and Club Level Athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 27(2), 158–168.
  5. Paque C. (1976). La consommation d'eau chez les Sahariens. Une consommation remarquablement réduite et constante [Water consumption in Saharan nomads. A remarkably reduced and constant consumption]. La Nouvelle presse medicale, 5(32), 2087–2090
  6. Tsindos S. (2012). What drove us to drink 2 litres of water a day?. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health, 36(3), 205–207.
  7. Mayo Clinic. (2010). Water: How much should you drink every day? (accessed 27 December 2010)
  8. Topp R, Fahlman M, Boardley D . Healthy aging: health promotion and disease prevention. Nurs Clin North Am 2004; 39: 411–422.
  9. Pruimboom, L., & Reheis, D. (2016). Intermittent drinking, oxytocin and human health. Medical hypotheses, 92, 80–83.

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