Water – How Much Do I Really Need to Drink?
Water is essential for life. You can only survive a few days without it. And being hydrated is essential for health. I could argue that water is the most essential nutrient of them all. Water is needed for every cell and function in your body.
Water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion. It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat. It helps to regulate your body temperature and helps maintain electrolyte (mineral) balance. And that’s just a few of its roles.
Dehydration can impair mood and concentration, and contribute to headaches and dizziness. It can reduce your physical endurance, and increase the risk for kidney stones and constipation. Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke.
So, water is critical for life and health. But, just as way too little water is life-threatening, so is way too much. As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balance to be reached. But, there are conflicting opinions as to how much water to drink. Is there a magic number for everyone? What counts toward water intake? Let’s dive right in.
How much water do I need?
Once upon a time, there was a magic number called “8×8.” This was the recommendation to drink eight-8 oz glasses of water every day; that’s about 2 liters of water.
Over time, we’ve realized that imposing this external “one size fits all” rule may not be the best approach. Now, many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst. We have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are. And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable. Unfortunately for the many who have lived so long without drinking enough water, thirst is not enough. Our bodies prioritize how we use the water in our bodies. Signals like headaches and fatigue can become normal and many people do not register this as a need for water. When we deprive our body cells of water, they start to react differently. If the water going out of your body doesn’t match the water coming in, you end up with less water in your blood. Your blood volume drops and it thickens. Your brain doesn’t get enough blood, meaning it doesn’t get enough oxygen or nutrition.
A good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces of water per day. For example, a 160lb person should drink 80oz of water per day. If you are not used to drinking this much water, you will be running to the bathroom a lot. Once your body gets used to the water intake, your cells will adapt and you won’t be running to the bathroom as often.
Besides thirst and other signals from your body, pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker.
There are a few other things to consider when evaluating your hydration status. Your water needs are based on age, activity, climate, diet and health concerns. Water Intake should increase in the following situations:
- Hot/Humid Temperaturs
- High Altitude (above 8,200 feet)
- During Exercise
- Illness – incidents of fever, vomiting or diarrhea
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
So, ditch the “one size fits all” external rule, and pay more attention to your body’s subtle cues for water. To much water can result in disrupted sleep and mineral imbalances. Too little water can result in fatigue, hunger, headaches, sugar cravings and confusion.
What counts toward my water intake?
All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs. Water is usually the best choice. If you’re not drinking pure water, consider the effects that the other ingredients have on your body. Drinks containing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will have effects besides hydration. Sugar can mess with your blood sugar balance. Alcohol can make you feel “buzzed.” And caffeine can keep you awake. Coffee, soda, alcohol and energy drinks are not water. They contain water, but also contain dehydrating agents.
Also, many foods contain significant amounts of water. Especially fruits and vegetables like cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water, so they are good sources of hydration. So, you don’t need to count your plain water intake as your only source of hydration. All fluids and foods with water count.
There is no magic number of the amount of water you need. Everyone is different. Children, pregnant women, elderly people need more. Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea will also increase your short-term need for more water. The most important thing is to pay attention to your thirst. Other signs you need more water are dark urine, sweating, constipation, yawning, sleepiness and craving sweet foods.
Water is your best source of fluids but many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don’t forget about them. Let me know in the comments: What’s your favorite way to hydrate?
Tasty hydrating beverages.
Want to boost your hydration and nutrient intake simultaneously? Check out my FREE Green Smoothie Challenge. Since discussed how the brain is affected without proper hydration, here’s one of the many delicious recipes you’ll get:
Brain Fuel: Packed with plenty of good fats and fiber to get you thinking good thoughts all day long: 2 cups spinach, 2 cups ripe pears, 1 cup frozen mango, 1/2 avocado, 2 cups water.
Instructions: Place your fruit into the blender with 1-2 cups of filtered water and blend for 25 seconds. Add your leafy greens and blend until very smooth (30 seconds in a powerful blender and longer if your blender is not as powerful
Let me know in the comments: What’s your favorite way to hydrate?