We all do our fair share of living healthy. By eating right, drinking water, exercising and generally maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we do our quota. One aspect of this healthy living that still has a large question mark is the amount of water we should take a day. A number of articles that have circulated over the years claim that eight glasses of water is the right water intake. Approximately, that’s almost two litres of low-calorie fluid.
The Institute of Medicine actually recommends that women get 2.7 litres of water per day. However, while that’s about 11 glasses of low-calorie fluid, it doesn’t say you should drink that much water. This is not your only source of hydration. Also, you don’t have to consume all the low-calorie fluids you need through drinking. There are other sources like food, vegetables and fruits. In addition to this are juice, tea, beer, coffee and other beverages.
What experts have to say about water
How much do you need?
Toby Mündel, Exercise Scientist
Many factors will determine how much water — via all foods and fluid, not just water! — your body needs. These include the following:
- Body size and composition (weight, muscle, and fat)
- How much you sweat (physically active, hot or humid environment, too much clothing)
- How often you urinate (taking certain medication, being at high altitude)
- Your health (having fever, vomiting, or disease)
- Status (pregnant, breastfeeding)
- Your diet (high-water content foods, carbohydrates)
For most healthy adults, rarely feeling thirsty and having light yellow (or colourless) urine usually confirms adequate water intake. Other helpful tips include drinking a glass of low-calorie fluid before and with every meal. This helps to distinguish hunger from thirst. Also, drinking low-calorie fluid before, during and after physical activity (especially if you sweat) helps. Although rare, drinking too much fluid can also have negative health consequences, so more is not necessarily better.
When do you need water?
Jon Bartlett, Sports Scientist
A person’s daily water requirements are highly individual and dependent upon a number of internal and external factors. While eight glasses of water per day is recommended as a base requirement to meet daily physiological needs, the actual volume of water required in a day is dependent on one’s day-to-day activities, health and the climate in which they reside.
Research shows even just a mild level of dehydration can negatively affect both mental and physical performance. This is further accentuated for individuals who are highly active and who live in hot environments. A simple and easy reminder to ensure you are drinking enough is to drink water once you feel thirsty. For days when activity levels are higher than normal or for those in hotter environments, increase the regularity of drinking and the total volume.
Signs of dehydration
Amy Marturana, C.P.T.
Your body tells you when it needs water. There are moments you feel thirsty; that’s when you should drink. Try to moderate the number of times you drink water asides that. Another time you should drink low-calorie fluid is 30 minutes before a meal to reduce your meal cravings. A giveaway sign you need water is when you get dehydrated, and there are several symptoms of this. Here are the signs your body gives for dehydration:
- You’re feeling hungrier than usual. Thirst and hunger cues come from the same part of the brain, so it’s easy to confuse the two. If you feel hungry, even when you know you’ve eaten enough, there’s a good chance your body’s actually telling you it needs water, not food.
- You’re feeling super dry. When your body is begging for hydration, the need can manifest in various signs of dryness, including dry mouth, chapped lips, dry skin and a lack of tears.
- You have a headache. Doctors aren’t quite sure why, but they think it might be because when hydration levels drop, so does blood volume, which can reduce oxygen supply to the brain.
- Your muscles feel weak or crampy. Cramping, muscle spasms and generally feeling weak or fatigued can all be indications of dehydration.
- Your breath is randomly stinky. Having bad breath can be a tip-off that you need to sip some water. That can be a result of dry mouth. Saliva has bacteria-fighting properties. When your saliva levels go down, so does your mouth’s ability to fight odour-causing germs.
In addition to all that, rapid heartbeat or breathing, sunken eyes, fever, confusion or delirium can all be signs of severe dehydration. If you have these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Can you be over hydrated?
Yes, and overconsumption of water can be a serious health risk. While uncommon, hyponatremia is a condition induced by excessive water consumption where blood sodium levels become too low. Symptoms of hyponatremia include brain fog, bloating, headaches and nausea.
If your urine is consistently clear and your bathroom visits each day are in the double digits, you may be overdoing it. Remember: There are plenty of factors that count toward water intake. While keeping a bottle by your side during the day is an easy way to hydrate, the food you eat also contributes. Forcing yourself to drink water during the day—especially if you aren’t thirsty—simply isn’t healthy.