You need water to live. It helps with every function in your body. It is the major component in muscles, blood,bones and your brain. Yet, a question I still get asked a lot in practice is “How much water should I be drinking everyday?”. It’s a simple question, yet the answer varies based on your activity level, your health and even where you live.
Water is vital to the proper function of your body. It helps to flush out toxins and waste, it helps carry nutrients to your organs, tissues and cells and it helps to keep things “moisturized” in your body – like your joints, throat, mouth, and nose.
Yet, as much water you intake through beverages and food all day, you lose just as much. Through breathing, perspiration, urinationand bowel movements, you have to continually replenish the water reserve in your body or you will become dehydrated.
Dehydration can lead to all types of problems including a dry, sticky mouth, chapped lips, thirst, sleepiness or tiredness, dry skin, headaches, constipation, dizziness or lightheadedness. So if you are feeling any of these symptoms, have a large glass of water to help restore your water balance.
One of the easiest ways to determine how hydrated you are, is by urine colour. If it is clear or light yellow, you are hydrated; dark yellow or amber coloured, you may be suffering from dehydration.
Most people have heard about the 8×8 rule of water. Drink 8, 8oz (~230mL) glasses of water a day or about 2L of water in total. Another way to to figure it out is to drink half you body weight in ounces of water…So if you weigh 150lbs (68kg’s), you should try and drink 75 ounces (~2.2L). The math isn’t quite as easy in metric.
Not just water counts as fluid. Food intake can account for about 20% of your fluid intake, where if you eat more fruits and vegetables this may increase. For example, foods such as tomatoes and watermelon are almost 90% water. Other beverages such as milk and juice count as well. Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea, can count towards your daily intake, as long as they are drank in moderation. If you consume more than 5-7 cups a day (500-600mg of caffeine) that’s when the diuretic or dehydrating effect can occur. Unfortunately, caffeine can make you jittery, anxious and unable to sleep if consumed in large amounts.
You need to increase your daily levels of fluid if you are exercising. For short exercise periods (less than an hour) increase by 500mL or about 2 cups of water. For longer exercise periods (more than an hour), increase fluid intake by what type of activity you are doing, intensity and duration.
Another factor that may increase your need for water is the environment you live in. Hot and humid areas can make you sweat thereby increasing the amount of water you need. Elevation can also play a part because it may trigger more urination and more rapid breathing, making your body use more water then normal.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you need additional water to hydrate your baby! The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant ladies drink at least 2.3L (~10 cups) and breastfeeding moms drink around 3.1L (~13 cups) of fluids a day.
Illness with vomiting, diarrhea or fever also increases your need to stay hydrated. You may also consider oral rehydration beverages such as Gatorade, Powerade, Pocari Sport Drinks or rehydration salts. Other conditions that require more water intake are kidney stones or Urinary Tract Infections. Consultation with your doctor may be necessary for some conditions.
Overall the best drink of choice is WATER! It is calorie-free, caffeine-free, readily available and just what your body wants and needs. Go have a glass now…your body will thank you for it!
Yours in Health and Hydration,