Hydrate! How Much Water Do You Really Need Every Day?
How much water do you really need to drink to be healthy? Most experts recommend 6-8 glasses of water. But is that 8 ounce glasses or 6 ounces? Or 10? And some people need more, while some people don't need quite so much. You can talk to your doctor for more information, but if your doctor is like mine they'll hem and haw and sputter until they find the same generic information you can find in most magazines. Six to eight glasses a day is a good goal in general.
Fortunately, there is a formula to help you know exactly how much water to drink every single day. Most healthy individuals require 1/2 ounce of water per pound of body weight during mild weather. That means that if you weigh 100lbs, you need to drink 50 oz of water. (100/2=50) But if you weigh 160lbs, that number goes up to 80oz. And if you weigh 210, you need 105oz of water a day...as you can see, hydration needs can vary considerably from person to person.
How much is an ounce? A 1 cup fluid measuring cup holds about 8 ounces of water. An average water bottle holds 16 ounces of water. You can estimate how much your favorite drinking glass holds by pouring a cup of water into it and taking note where the water line is. Or, you can measure out your minimum water intake into a pitcher every morning and replenish your water bottle from that until it's gone. There are also reusable water bottles that hold up to 40 oz of water (some more, but I find that more than 40 oz of water gets really heavy in my purse) and you can remember to refill it during your afternoon break.
While your personal optimum hydration may vary, this formula is a handy way to help you keep hydrated and a lot more concrete than the general advice spouted by fitness experts and health mongers everywhere.
Does it have to be water?
While water is the ideal fluid, it isn't the only hydrating liquid out there. Tea, broth, sports drinks and some juices can be used in place of water when you're trying to stay well hydrated. While coffee and soda are appealing and theoretically hold as much hydrating power as water does, large amounts of caffeine can have a diuretic effect, meaning you need more liquids overall.
Be careful what you substitute for your water. While other liquids might seem more palatable, water is calorie free, sugar free, and naturally caffeine free. In fact, replacing just one bottle of soda a day with water will save you 15 teaspoons of sugar a day. Juice may contain some vitamins and minerals, but it also contains a generous amount of fruit sugar and calories. And coffee can keep you up late at night. If you don't care for water alone, try it with a twist of lemon (no sweetener), or make herbal tea for a low calorie taste treat.
You can also augment your liquid intake with fresh fruits and vegetables that have a high water content, like melon, oranges and celery. Although experts recommend against drinking too much juice, whole fruit and vegetables contain a variety of minerals and vitamins, as well as fiber to help keep your whole body healthy.
If there is confusion, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and/or loss of consciousness please report to the nearest emergency room. If you are not emptying your bladder at least once in 12 hours, you may also need emergency assistance.
What if I'm Still Dehydrated?
This formula is to be used as a guideline only, and it represents a minimum goal. You may need more water/liquid under certain conditions.
If you are dehydrated, it means that your body's cells don't have enough liquid to function properly. This can lead to headaches, dizziness, general unwell feelings or in extreme cases fainting. The easiest way to tell if you are getting enough to drink is to be aware of how frequently you empty your bladder and the color of your urine. You should relieve yourself at least 4-6 times a day. The urine should be light in color. If it starts to look golden or cloudy, you need to drink more.
There are certain conditions that may require an individual to need more water. If you are ill, or recovering from illness, your body needs extra fluids because it's been burning through them faster. During warm weather, or strenuous activity, you tend to sweat out a lot of your water. You need to replace those missing fluids with extra water, and possibly some electrolytes (You can find electrolyte enhanced water or sport drinks at most corner stores). Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to increase their fluid intake to account for their baby's needs. Young children and elderly individuals are especially vulnerable to dehydration, and may need help monitoring their fluid intake.
If you have an ongoing medical condition, your needs may be greater or less, depending on the condition; and your medical professional should be able to better guide you towards tailoring your dietary intake.
There are times when a person gets dehydrated beyond the point of home remedies. If a person is not rallying after a few hours of cool water and rest, they should seek the advice of a medical professional.
How Can I Possibly Drink That Much?!?
Some people find it intimidating to drink so much water (or liquid in general) at once. That's okay. Figure out your ideal liquid intake, and then look around your kitchen. Find a water bottle and figure out how much it holds.
Now you just need to figure out how many times you need to refill that water bottle every day. Each time you've emptied it, you know exactly how much you've drunk. And, you don't need to chug. You can sip your way to heavenly hydration. Or, whatever.
You can flavor your water with iced tea or other flavored powders; or you can drop a few lemon slices in there to make it more palatable. Some people find it easier to drink more if they use a straw. You can add ice, or skip the ice. (Remember that ice will add to your liquid intake as it melts!)
If you just aren't downing enough H2O to match your requirements, look at the other liquidy foods you might be ingesting. Remember that herbal tea counts, as does soup. Watermelon, cucumber and other juicy fruits count toward your water intake.
However you do it, remember that healthy hydration is a vital way to stay healthy and keep your body functioning well. Drink up!