Water Intake: Everything You Need to Know
The human body is approximately 60% water. Our planet may seem like it has an endless amount of water - but, did you know that only 1% of the planet’s water is available for human use? Water works extremely hard to nourish our environments as well as our bodies. How much water we really need to drink per day is a highly-Googled question. This blog post will be a tell-all guide on water, what benefits it can provide, and how much should be consumed each day.
Going without water is almost as deadly as going without air. Science shows us that humans can live without food for 3-5 WEEKS, but only 3-10 DAYS without water.
Water is simply hydrogen and oxygen, but it supports all forms of life in one way or another. Besides being a vital part of living, water provides the following benefits:
- Aiding digestion
- Preventing constipation
- Protecting organs
- Protecting tissues
- Regulating body temperature
- Carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
- Flushing bacteria from your bladder
- Stabilizing the heartbeat
- Boosts metabolism
Unfortunately, most of us are not getting enough to drink each day. Dehydration is an overlooked risk for older people, for example. As we age, our sensations regarding thirst decrease. Many older adults do not drink enough water due to this. Many of my clients complain that they have to pee to often and so they avoid water because it is inconvenient. Many working adults are chronically dehydrated because their beverages of choice are coffee or and caffeinated soda, Pepsi or Coke, Dr. Pepper, or Mountain Dew. Many adolescents drink Monsters and Red Bull at addiction-level frequency. All of these beverages are dehydrating due to the sugar and caffeine content.
By the time they feel parched, it could already be a sign of early dehydration, according to Anne Vanderbilt, CNS. When you feel the signals of thirst you have already lost 2-3% of your body’s stored water with means you will experiencing mental and emotional side effects.
The Signs of Dehydration
- Feeling thirsty
- Feeling tired
- Dry lips, eyes, or mouth
- Urinating less than 4 times a day
- Urine is dark yellow and is strong-smelling
- Rapid heart rapid
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle cramps
- Dark skin
- Loss of elasticity in skin
Dehydration can occur easily if you have had too much alcohol, sweat too much after exercising, been taking diuretics, or if you have heatstroke. Additionally, those with diabetes have a higher risk of becoming dehydrated. But anyone can be chronically dehydrated due to poor water intake.
So, how much water do we really need?
Every day we lose water through everyday activities like breathing and sweating. Replenishing the amount of water in your body is extremely important. The US Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have determined that the following amounts are adequate for proper hydration:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
The classic advice for water is to “drink 8 glasses a day.” Now, this may work for some, but for others it doesn’t. Depending on your location, exercising levels, overall health, and whether or not you are pregnant are factors to take into account.
Another way to calculate adequate water intake is by taking a look at your weight. The University of Missouri System says that taking your weight and dividing it in half gives you a good baseline for how many ounces of water you should drink a day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water a day.
Is there such thing as too much water?
Recorded cases of overhydration are rare, but they still exist! Overhydration (more specifically, hyponatremia), can occur when you drink too much water and your kidneys can’t get rid of the excess. The concentration of sodium is low in your body because of the increased amount of water. In order to avoid this, I recommend keeping an eye on your symptoms. The symptoms of drinking too much water are similar to being dehydrated. When you have too much water in the body, you can have throbbing headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Also, the color of your urine can be a good indicator. If your urine is often clear, that is a good sign that you are drinking too much water in a short span.
What counts as water intake?
You total water intake can include beverages other than water. Herbal tea without sweetener or sweetened with stevia or a sugar alcohol counts in your total water intake. However, adding sugar to your tea will nullify the benefit of the water, and your tea will lean toward dehydrating your system.
Water with added (no sugar) minerals or electrolytes contributes to your daily water intake. Whereas Pedialyte and Gatorade have so much sugar that they can dehydrate your body depending on the situation. I use a variety of no-sugar electrolytes to improve my hydration, especially when I use my sauna or go hiking. My favorites are:
1. Jigsaw Berry-Licious because I buy it in a bottle or individual packs for times when I am on the go. It tastes great and even friends who “hate stevia” don’t notice any aftertaste.
2. I use Matrix Electrolytes when I want minerals without adding flavor. I add them to a protein shake or vegetable juice.
3. LMNT Electrolytes are so popular in the Paleo, Low Carb, and Keto communities I follow. So I had to give them a try. They are so delicious IF you like the taste of salt--which I DO. I regularly will add a dash of salt to my water for taste and added minerals, so LMNT’s salty aftertaste is pleasant for my taste buds. I don’t love the spicy ones, but that is just personal preference.
Homemade bone broth can be hydrating and a great source of minerals from both the water and the bones in the broth.
My top tips for drinking more water
Put it near you; whether that means fill up a bottle and put it on your counter, in your car, or on your desk, have it available at all times. Rely on glass or stainless steel canteens as plastic pollutes the environment and you with BPA (a known-cancer causing chemical).
- Set a timer on your phone/computer to take a swig every 20 minutes. This may seems like a lot, but experts agree that breaking up your work/screen time into 20 minute sections actually increases your productivity---so taking a water-break will be a double benefit.
- Use an app in your Android or Apple to track and remind your about your water consumption.
Quality is just as important as quantity
We all know it’s not a good idea to drink from your garden hose or a stream in the wilderness? Why is that? Because of potential pathogens, bacteria, virus, metals, parasites, etc., that are in the water. Possibly as dangerous as the these pathogens are the chemicals and metals found in your tap water. Tap water, sometimes called municipal or city water, is loaded with chloramines and other chemicals that kill harmful pathogens. But these chemicals are also toxic to your body. Here is my guide to the best water filters.
Here is a list of other potentials toxins in your tap water:
- Perchlorates (Perc)
There are some great podcasts through the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute on hydration.
Both of these podcasts go into depth regarding the significance of hydration and how to balance exercising, living a normal life, and staying properly hydrated.
Also, there is a Ted Podcast available online as well. This one debunks the myth of “drinking 8 glasses of water a day” only!
Water is universal to all living things. From professional athletes to babies in the womb, we all need water to stay hydrated for optimal physical and mental health. Want to get more information on ways to boost your hydration potential? Schedule a consult with me, Carly Neubert BA, NC.