Massage Myth #1 – Drink Lots of Water After a Massage

What’s the Real Skinny on Drinking Water After a Massage?

Do you remember being in school or receiving a massage and being told by a teacher or massage professional to drink extra water after receiving a massage?

drinking water


Hey, I was taught that too. Now, let’s put a stop to the proliferation of this potentially harmful practice in our profession.

People should drink an adequate amount  of water to stay hydrated. Drink until your thirst is quenched. Just like after working out, after a massage you may feel more thirsty than usual, but let’s not overdue it. There are some guidelines below on how much water to drink on a daily basis and it’s not the same for everyone.

I Was Guilty Once Also

20 years ago in my first year practicing professionally, I was guilty of massively disseminating this advice. Enthusiastically encouraging all my clients to drink plenty, extra, lots and lots of water. Why? Because manually manipulating muscle tissue stirs up all those toxins which are plaguing your body, that’s why. (which is Big Myth #2 by the way)

The first time this age old notion came into question for me was when a client called me two days after his massage and said he had gotten so sick he threw up the night of his massage. He told me he had followed my instructions and drank a ton of water. “How much?” I asked.

Water is Poisonous?

Not really. First, let’s find out what happens when you do drink too much water too fast. It’s called Water Intoxication or  poisoning and can lead to something called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is when there’s so much water in your system it dilutes the electrolytes causing sodium levels to fall dangerously low causing blood cells to swell. Can you imagine if this happens to the cells in your brain? OK, let’s not. No….let’s:

When those cells inside your brain swell, initial symptoms include

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Severe cases are marked by confusion, double vision, and fatigue, much like heat stroke. How ironic. Even brain damage, coma and death in the most extreme cases. But for water intoxication to get to that level, someone would have to be waterboarding themselves.

How Much Water is Too Much?

Well, the body can normally eliminate about a liter an hour, so anymore than that you want to monitor your level of thirst, level of activity, and color of your urine. It’s not so much the amount you drink, it’s how much how fast. To be safe, drink no more than one liter in an hour.

What Do We Need?

On a normal day for most of us, we eliminate about 3-4 liters a day. Do we need to drink 3-4 liters a day? Not necessarily. Much of the H2O we need is absorbed with our food. Maybe a little less if we survive on drive-thrus and food from boxes. That arbitrary rule (not so arbitrary, just a mis-quoted study from 1945) of 8 glasses of 8 ounces is an ok guideline. That’s about two liters.

Two indicators to pay attention to:

  1. Your thirst. If you’re thirsty, drink.
  2. Urine color. Generally, if it’s cloudy and dark yellow, drink more. If it’s completely clear with no color, drink less.

If you’re hiking trails in the summer or shoveling coal into a steam engine, drink more. You could be losing 3-4 liters a few hours, not just in a day.

If you’re crazy like me and landscape your yard in the deathly summer heat of Phoenix, Arizona, you could be putting away 4-6 liters. Don’t be crazy like me.


Oh, and in case you were wondering…my client told me he drank about a gallon and a half before going to bed that night. Thank goodness he recuperated.



Further reading

The REAL 8×8 study