How Much Water Do I Really Need to Drink?

Woman drinking water in a sunny living roomYAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock

You keep hearing that you have to stay hydrated, but what does it look like? Here is the amount of water you really need to drink.

Keeping our body hydrated can sometimes be more of a chore than a survival instinct. Many times we have heard that we are supposed to drink eight glasses of water a day to adopt a healthy lifestyle. However, the idea of ​​health and hydration is not as simple as we have been led to believe. The amount of water we need to drink depends on many factors, including our age, gender, environment, and activity level.

Let's start with the most critical thing to know: dehydration, what it is and what it is.

Side effects of dehydration

Low water consumption causes dehydration, which causes side effects and can lead to serious complications if they are severe. Studies have shown that mild dehydration induced by exercise and heat, described as a loss of equivalent to 1 to 3% of body weight, can negatively affect brain function and reduce the risk of death. 39; endurance.

When the water levels in the body drop even further, the cells are deprived of the fluids they need to carry out their activities and cognitive functions such as memory and attention are impaired. We are constantly losing water through perspiration, breathing and urination. It's good to listen to your body and always have water at your fingertips.

If you are thirsty, your body is already showing signs of mild dehydration. If you start having headaches, muscle cramps, dry or sticky mouth, or infrequent urination, you are already in a more dangerous phase of dehydration and you should get some water.

The myth of the 8 × 8 rule

The rule that we must drink eight glasses of water 8 ounces a day to stay hydrated is a point of reference for most of us for years. However, the experts do not agree with it and the origin of this recommendation is still under discussion.

The recommendation was published for the first time in 1945 with the publication of the dietary guidelines of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The recommendation was to consume 84 ounces of water a day, but no scientific discovery was made to support this claim. The idea was then released by Frederick J. Stare, a well-known American nutritionist, who recommended eating 8 glasses of water 8 ounces a day in a book he co-authored in the 1970s. It did not take long for the 8×8 rule to become a commonly accepted wisdom, despite the lack of true scientific support.

Although it is not necessarily a prejudicial opinion, there is no scientific proof that can prove its validity, at least not to the point of making it an official health recommendation.

Current recommendations

The 2015-2020 US dietary guidelines do not include a specific recommendation regarding daily fluid intake, although they advise to consume pure water rather than flavored substitutes, and natural juices rather than those containing added sugar. .

The Institute of Medicine provides more indications and recommends that women drink a total of 91 ounces (10 glasses) of liquids a day and men a total of 125 ounces (15 glasses). The advantage of this recommendation is that the research results estimated an increase in energy expenditure of about 96 calories per day with the consumption of 68 ounces of water, water cool at room temperature.

All fluids matter

Current recommendations call for higher fluid consumption than the 8×8 rule. Although this may seem even more difficult, it should be noted that the numbers take into account all fluids, not just water. This means that the 125 ozs contain fluids from both food and beverages. Most vegetables and fruits contain a lot of water, including, but not limited to, watermelon, strawberries, oranges, cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes. Natural drinks without additives also count, including coffee and tea (no added milk or sugar). If the water is too boring, try infusing it with herbs and fruits to make it tastier and more enjoyable. Sparkling water is also an option.

Pay attention to diuretics as they cause you to excrete more water than usual. This means that you end up going to the bathroom more often and that you have to make up for it with a lot of liquid. Sodium, on the other hand, causes a retention of water. In an attempt to balance the excess sodium in your system, your body accumulates more water and inflates some of its parts, such as your hands, legs, and feet. Your thirst is then stimulated and the excess fluid causes the accumulated water to be released by urination. Although our bodies self-regulate, it is good practice to know what we eat and drink for each system to work well.

Benefits of water consumption

Adequate water intake helps prevent several health problems, including constipation, kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Some studies have also associated with faster healing of wounds.

The correlation between hydration and weight loss may be more interesting. Although the results of the research do not quite confirm, there is a relationship between the two factors. Thirst and hunger come from the same part of the brain, which facilitates the confusion of our body and tells us that we are hungry when we are just thirsty. So, staying hydrated can prevent the intake of extra calories. In addition, studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces of water can temporarily boost our metabolism by 30% for 30 to 40 minutes, and drinking it half an hour before a meal reduces the amount of food .

Although this is not a common problem, overhydration can occur and have several consequences. It usually affects athletes and runners, as well as people working intensely in a warm environment. Excessive sweating causes sodium to drop, resulting in increased thirst and water consumption, as well as water saturation in our cells. It is at this point that the symptoms begin to manifest themselves: nausea, confusion, exhaustion, irritability and convulsions. If the level of water in our body becomes dangerously high, it can even lead to coma or death. For the vast majority of people, however, the risk of over-consumption of water is approaching existing non-existent and even athletes can mitigate this risk by supplementing their water consumption with electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium.

So, how much water should you drink?

Although we have guidelines to help us track our water intake, it is good to listen to our body. We are not all the same, so one measure will not apply perfectly to everyone.

The amount of water you need depends on several factors: age, sex, body mass, environmental conditions, activity level, health status and pregnancy status. Thirst is already a good indicator of our fluid needs; However, we should not just drink when we are thirsty, because the signal comes on while your body is already slightly dehydrated.

There are many things that tell us that we need more water: excessive sweating due to intense heat and exercise; dry mouth, chapped skin and lips; fever and loss of fluid (diarrhea or vomiting) headache; muscle weakness and fatigue; reduced amounts of saliva and stinky breath; pregnancy (minimum of 81 oz of water per day); and breastfeeding (minimum of 105 oz of water per day). The more you stay hydrated, the fewer problems you have.

And how do you say that you are well hydrated? The best way, according to the Mayo Clinic, is to check your urine. If it is pale yellow, you are hydrated. If it is darker yellow, this is not the case. And if it is limpid, you are probably too hydrated.

Staying hydrated is essential for your body to work and stay happy. The 8×8 is perhaps more of a rule of thumb than a fact, but it is a good starting point for those of us struggling to get enough fluids a day. Always strive to have water on hand (and in sight) –a good bottle of water can help– Eat a lot of fluid-rich foods and consider your body's signals – when you're thirsty or your urine is dark, drink. It's a simple and cost-effective way to stay healthy.

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