How much water do you really need?
We have all heard multiple answers to this question; how much water do we need to drink every day? Eight cups, 100 ounces, your body weight in ounces … the truth is there is no exact number or easy calculation to put to it. Like all of health, it varies per person and can change every day.
Water is necessary for body function. It is found inside our cells, outside our cells and in our blood, so quite literally every where. It transfers nutrients, removes wastes, lubricates joints, and regulates body temperature, among other life-sustaining jobs. Without adequate water, our cells would shrivel and die and our health would be greatly affected.
Here are the main things that affect our water needs:
- Perspiration (sweating)
- Going to the bathroom (urine and feces loss)
- Respiration (breathing)
- Age (younger and older may need more)
- Gender and body composition (higher muscle mass means more water needed)
A healthy adult looses on average 10 cups of water a day from basic body function, as listed above. For the most part, people easily replace this and it is not a concern. Taking gender into account, the Institute of Medicine recommends we consume roughly 2.7 liters of water a day for women and 3.7 liters a day for men, from all sources, not just water.
The fluid in our bodies does not just come from water that we drink, it also comes from:
Regardless of calories, sugar content, caffeine, etc.
-Foods (mainly fruits and vegetables)
Most vegetables are 80-90% water!
-Metabolism (end product of energy production)
Additional water loss can come in special circumstances, including:
- Excess or highly intense exercise
- Extreme environment conditions
- Hot temperatures
- High elevation
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Severe injury, sickness or infection
These conditions of water loss are rare occurrences for most people, therefore, make it much easier to loose greater amounts of body water than normal. Under these circumstances you should make an effort to consume more water than you otherwise would.
If you do not consume enough water to balance water loss, you can become dehydrated (lower than ideal body water). Mild dehydration, if treated, has no long terms affects. If recognized early it is easy to correct by drinking fluids, ideally water. However, if left untreated, dehydration can escalate fairly quickly and the body risks organ failure and in severe circumstances, death.
The most immediately noticeable signs of dehydration are thirst and dark urine. Urine should be pale or clear if you are well hydrated. (Do note that supplements may affect urine color, in which case this may not be the best measure of hydration.)
Other signs of dehydration that should be immediately addressed:
~Fatigue and hard to concentrate
~Dizzy or faint
~Racing heart beat
~Stomach or muscle cramps
~Not sweating in spite of heat and exercise
If you are experiencing any signs of dehydration shown above, drink water slowly to replenish losses. Too much water too quickly can lead to water intoxication especially in cases of extreme dehydration. If more severe dehydration is expected, consuming foods with salt may also be necessary, as salt is lost with water.
NOTE: If you are exercising in hot conditions, or extended periods of time, be sure to take breaks to drink water every 20 minutes or so to avoid excess water loss. You should also take in salt to balance sodium and chloride loss with sweat.
SICK OF WATER?
Try some of these fun options!
1. Infusing: Add sliced cucumbers, lemons and limes, whole or mashed berries, mint leaves or basil to a pitch or water and let it sit in the fridge overnight
2. Sparking water: the bubbles add an extra refreshing twist
3. Ice tea (unsweetened): Can also be infused!
4. Kombucha tea: carbonated with a hint of sweet and flavor
Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes