Water - How Much Do I Really Need to Drink?
As you already know, drinking water is VERY important. But why and how much? We'll talk about it all today.
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
- Aids digestion.
- It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat.
- It helps to regulate your body temperature.
- Helps maintain electrolyte (mineral) balance.
- And that's just a few of its roles.
On the other hand, dehydration can cause a lot of problems.
- Impair mood and concentration
- Contribute to headaches and dizziness
- It can reduce your physical endurance
- Increase the risk for kidney stones and constipation.
- Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke.
- And SO much more.
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 "8x8." 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.
So, what is? Many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst. You don’t need to go overboard forcing down glasses of water when you’re not thirsty. Just pay attention to your thirst mechanism. We have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are. And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable.
The problem is, we often don't pay attention to what our body is telling us. For example, if we are constipated, hungry, having cravings or tired, those are some of the ways our body is trying to tell us to drink more. If you turn to a glass of water FIRST, your craving could go away, your bowels could start moving better and you could feel more energized.
Besides thirst, 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. If you’re sweating a lot, or are in a hot/humid climate drink more. Breastfeeding moms, elderly people, and people at risk of kidney stones need to drink more water too. So do people who experience vomiting and/or diarrhea, as both can quickly dehydrate our bodies.
So, ditch the “one size fits all” external rule, and pay more attention to your body’s subtle cues for water.
If you really want a hydration calculator, try this one to see how you are doing: Take half your body weight (pounds) and drink that in ounces. For example: If you weight 160 pounds, then you should drink 80 ounces in water. (8 oz is just over 2 litres). Remember, there are many things that can affect how much YOU need, but that is a start for you.
What counts toward my water intake?
All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs, but plain water is 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."
- Caffeine can keep you awake. (never mind the other ingredients you may put in your coffee- like cream and sugar).
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, as long as you are eating LOADS of healthy fruits and vegetables, you don’t need to count your plain water intake as your only source of hydration. All fluids and foods with water count.
On the other hand, if your diet is made up of processed foods (from a fast food restaurant, or from a box or a can at home), then you will likely need to increase your water intake.
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, and kidney stones.
Water is your best source of fluids. But other liquids help too. Just consider the effects the other ingredients have on your health as well. And many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don't forget about them.
Let me know in the comments: What’s your favourite way to hydrate?
I have some simple tips to help keep you hydrated! Click on the links below for more info:
And here are a few more ideas to drink more if you don't really love plain water. My favorite drink:
Tasty hydrating teas
You may not love the taste (or lack thereof) of plain water. One thing you can do is add some sliced or frozen fruit to your water. Since we learned that you could hydrate just as well with other water-containing beverages, here are some of my favorite herbal teas you can drink hot or cold.
- Lemon Balm
- Rose Hips
- Lemon Verbena
Hot tea - Place tea bags in a pot (1 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey and slice of lemon, if desired. Serve.
Iced tea - Place tea bags in a pot (2 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey, if desired. Chill. Add ice to a glass and fill with cold tea.
Tip: Freeze berries in your ice cubes to make your iced tea more beautiful and nutritious.
Serve & enjoy!
Let me know how you enjoy the teas!
Gaylene Gomez, NNCP, C.H.N.
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