How much fluid is enough?
The simple answer is: It depends. The amount of water you need depends on your age, weight, diet, activity level, state of health, and the climate in which you live.
Chances are you’ve heard that you must down eight glasses of water per day, but you may not necessarily need to drink that much. In fact, in 2004 the Institute of Medicine amended its guidelines on fluid consumption. Instead of recommending that people drink eight glasses of water a day, it now recommends that people generally be guided by their level of thirst when deciding how much to drink.
There are exceptions, however. Infants, children, the elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people who are ill, those undertaking strenuous exercise or anyone out in hot weather, are advised to not rely solely on their level of thirst as an indicator of whether they need to drink more water. In all of the above situations, it is advisable to ensure fluid intake is sufficient and to not wait until a thirst develops before drinking more fluid.
So, listen to your body! If you’re feeling thirsty, you need to drink. If you’ve let yourself become super-thirsty, you may already be a little dehydrated. Have a glass of water.
Pay attention to your body’s signals. Check the color of your urine. Ideally it should be pale yellow, almost clear. If it is and you’re producing about one to two liters of urine per day and going to the bathroom between around seven to twelve times per day, you’re likely drinking enough fluids. If however, your urine is dark in color and has a strong odor, and you go to the bathroom infrequently, you may need to drink more fluids.
Also, if you notice your thirst and urine level have increased, consider visiting a medical professional. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, increase a person’s thirst. If in doubt, get checked out.
Why is all this fluid important?
Your body is around 60 percent water. Every system of your body relies upon water to function properly. Therefore, it’s of vital importance that your daily fluid intake is sufficient.
If you don’t get enough fluid you may feel tired or dizzy, experience headaches, joint pain or become constipated. Severe dehydration can even result in death.
Do coffee, juice and soda count?
You may be surprised to learn that around 20 percent of your daily fluid intake comes from the food you eat. Some foods, such as watermelon, cucumber, even broccoli, have an extremely high water content.
The other 80 percent of your fluid intake comes directly from beverages. So, yes, coffee, tea, fruit juice, milk and soda count towards your daily fluid intake. However, it’s best if most of the fluid you consume throughout the day is water. Water is cheap and easily accessible, plus it doesn’t add extra calories.
Remember that while the occasional glass of juice or soda is fine, such drinks can add many extra calories without helping to satisfy hunger, and can also increase your risk of tooth decay.
The best way to stay hydrated is to drink water throughout the day. Have a glass with each meal and one between meals. If you don’t like the taste of water, try flavoring it naturally with slices of lemon or orange, or fresh mint leaves. Some people find it easier to sip water through a straw.
Do I need extra fluids when I’m exercising?
Yes. How much extra water you need depends upon the length and intensity of the exercise you undertake, as well as how much you sweat and how warm the weather is.
If you work out for an hour at the gym, eight to sixteen ounces of water may be enough to replace any fluid you have lost through working out. If you are participating in a marathon, you will need to drink considerably more water, and possibly a sports drink, to replace the fluids and minerals your body will lose.
Do I need to drink extra fluids when I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
Yes. Breastfeeding mothers, in particular, have higher fluid needs. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink 2.4 liters (about 10 cups) of fluids per day and women who breastfeed drink 3 liters (about 12.5 cups) of fluids a day.
Fluids and weight control
Our successful members frequently give this tip to others who are trying to control their weight: “Drink plenty of water!” But why do people who achieve their weight loss goals nearly always say that?
Well, water is used in every biological process of your body. Fat-burning is no exception. Plus, people who successfully control their weight usually make exercise a normal part of their new lifestyle, and therefore increase their fluid intake to replace any fluid they lose through exercising.
Also, remember that water contains no calories. So next time you’re tempted to have a soda, have some chilled water instead. You’ll save calories and help to keep those extra pounds from creeping on.
Thirst or hunger?
People who successfully control their weight have also learned to distinguish thirst from hunger. Next time you find yourself making a beeline towards the Ben and Jerry’s counter to order a triple-scoop sundae, consider whether it’s your taste buds you’re truly tuning into. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, especially when you’re craving something “wet”, you’re actually just thirsty. Drink some water and then see how you feel. If it turns out you were just thirsty, you’ve met your body’s needs and saved on unnecessary calories. If not, you could always go have that ice cream – or perhaps a sorbet instead.
Is it possible to drink too much fluid?
Yes, but it’s also very unlikely. Examples of situations where this could occur are with marathon runners who drink excessive amounts of water during a marathon, failing to rehydrate with electrolyte (sports) drinks; people who consume excessive amounts of fluid due to participating in a prank or dare; or those who drink excessive amounts of water in an effort to counteract the effects of illegal drugs.
The average American is unlikely to consume water at a level that is dangerous. An example of drinking fluid at a dangerous level would be drinking close to two gallons of water per day, in conjunction with a low sodium intake. Doing so would dilute the regular sodium concentration of the body, and this interferes with nerve cell function. Symptoms include dizziness, convulsions, coma and possibly death.