Hydration

How much water should I drink per day?

What percentage of the body is comprised of water?

You’ve probably heard different answers to these questions over the years, and I have too. Right now, as of this writing, it is July, and the hot weather got me thinking about water, hydration, and dehydration.

I spend a lot of time in the heat working, running, working out, and doing everyday things like going to the grocery store. For some reason, I never paid close attention to my hydration. Hopefully, this blog post will help us all pay better attention to our hydration level. 

First things first. How much water should you drink per day? There is no one-size-fits-all answer:

  • 8 8-ounce glasses which is about 2 liters, or a half gallon. There is no science behind this, however.
  • 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men, 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women. This is based on a recommendation from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
  • Sip water throughout the day and let thirst be your guide. 
  • Monitor urine color. The darker your urine, the more water you need.

Everyone has their own individual water needs. From how active they are, how much they sweat, to the environment they are in. And, even drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee and tea, count towards your daily goal.

Water makes up approximately 60% of the human body, so it is no secret that it serves a vital role in the health of an individual. Some of its functions include:

  • waste elimination
  • body temperature regulation
  • lubricates and cushions joints
  • protects sensitive tissue 
  • aids in digestion
  • makes up about half of blood volume

Dehydration

Water is lost through breathing, sweating, urination, and bowel movements. Dehydration occurs when more fluid is lost than is taken in. It can be caused by:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Not drinking enough

Dehydration is no joke. Even mild dehydration, a water loss of 1-3% of body weight (about 1.5-4.5 pounds for someone weighing 150 pounds), can cause headaches, diminished physical performance, impaired mood, memory, and brain performance. I have easily lost this amount of water working out or running on a hot day.

Heat Illness

Dehydration can also contribute to heat illness. When the body can no longer cool itself properly, heat illness can occur. The types of heat illness from least to most severe are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. 

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms and usually occur in the abdomen, arms, and legs. Move to a cool place and sip water. Wait for the cramps to go away before resuming any physical activity. 

Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, cold, pale, clammy skin, a fast, weak pulse, nausea, dizziness, and headache. If it is not treated, it can turn into heat stroke. Move to a cool place, loosen clothes, put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath, and sip water. Get medical help if vomiting occurs, symptoms get worse or last longer than one hour. 

Heat stroke is a life-threatening illness characterized by a body temperature above 103° F. Symptoms include dry skin, a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. The victim may also lose consciousness. This is a medical emergency, and 911 should be activated immediately. Move the victim to a cool place, do not give them anything to drink, but help lower their body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. 

Can you drink too much water?

It is difficult to drink too much water, but it is possible. Electrolytes in the body are responsible for vital functions such as regulation of the heartbeat, and the function of the muscles and nervous system. Drinking too much water can cause an imbalance in electrolyte levels. Hyponatremia occurs when the blood sodium level becomes diluted by too much water intake. The blood sodium level falls to a point causing cells to malfunction and can cause death. 

Can drinking water contribute to weight loss?

Water plays a huge role in digestion. When adequately available, it makes the process more efficient; studies show it can improve metabolism.

Water can occupy room in the stomach and even satisfy cravings. Drinking water before eating a meal can help you eat less. This study found that drinking 500ml of water before eating a meal helped contribute to weight loss over a 12-week period.

If you’re looking for a little help losing weight, try drinking 500ml of water before eating. This is just a small bottle of water. It is a good habit to get into, and even if it doesn’t help you lose weight, the extra water is healthy for you regardless!

Hydration is essential to life. From the many physiological processes it is part of, to keeping you cool. It makes up about 60% of your body, and is definitely good for you.