Apr 182012

How Much Water Should I Drink?How Much Water Should I Drink?

Temperatures are warming up and I can’t stress enough the importance of staying safely hydrated. Water is the essence of all life–but how much water do we need? Although no single formula fits everyone, knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.

Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years—eight 8-ounce cups a day, one half the amount of your body weight–but in truth your water needs depend on many factors — health conditions, how active you are and where you live.

Health Benefits of Water

Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Water is necessary for digesting your food, and cooling your body.

Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired, or cause heat stroke.

How Much Water Should I Drink?How Much Water Should I Drink?

Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.

So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? According to the Institute of Medicine, an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Remember that these are averages and there are many other factors to determine the amount that is right for you.
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Other factors that influence how much water to drink:

  • Exercise–If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. It’s important to drink water before, during, and after exercise—at least 1.5 to 2.5 cups for each 45 minutes of moderate exercise. Intense exercise lasting more than an hour requires more fluid intake. Depending on how much you sweat, it may be good idea to use a sports drink that contains electrolytes to replace sodium and other minerals.
  • Illness or health conditions–Whenever you are sick, including vomiting, diarrhea, or you have a fever, you need to drink more water. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding also require more fluids. If you’re concerned about your fluid intake or have health issues, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
  • Environment. Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluid. Heated indoor air also can cause your skin to lose moisture during wintertime. Altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your fluid reserves.

What you eat also provides a significant portion of your fluid needs. On average, food provides about 20% of total water intake. Check out this list of foods that are 90% or more water by weight: Tomatoes, cucumber, celery, watermelon, cantaloupe, dark leafy greens, radishes, squash, lemons, eggplant, grapes and strawberries.

Many of these foods are nutrient dense and have significant amounts of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus; vitamins and minerals that are lost through perspiration.

Sneak it in—get into the habit of having a full glass every day when you wake up, take a full glass with your vitamins, and plan ahead. Get an insulated bag and take water with you when you’re running errands. You’re likely to drink more water if it’s cold.

So there are no clear rules on how much water to drink, but what you do need to remember is that if you’re thirsty, it’s likely that you are on the way to becoming dehydrated.

Cheers, and drink safely!

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