H20! How Much Water Does Your Body Actually Need?
What’s all the fuss about drinking water? To survive and thrive, we all need water to protect our organs, regulate our body temperature and deliver nutrients to our cells. We can survive without water for three to seven days, but being even slightly dehydrated can wreak havoc on our bodies.
So How Much is Enough?
Eight 8-oz. glasses a day? That is the maxim often repeated, but it is misleading. Just as our dietary needs vary from person to person, so do our water needs. Humans are different sizes and shapes with different metabolisms, activity levels, and live in a variety of climates. Thus, our individual water needs will vary.
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recommends that women consume about 91 ounces (about 11-8 oz. glasses) and men about 125 ounces (about 15 8-oz. glasses) of water a day. This includes water we get from food, which is estimated to be roughly 20% of our total water consumption. A diet high in “wet” foods, such as cucumbers, celery, lettuce and tomatoes and water has a higher percentage of water.
It also includes water for other beverages: tea, coffee, milk, a bowl of soup and even a glass of wine or beer. Thus, you may end up only needing to drink 4 8-oz. glasses of water, because of water you are consuming through other dietary sources.
You will know if you need to drink up if you experience dry mouth, irritability, fatigue, and headaches- all symptoms of mild dehydration. To ensure you are adequately hydrated, adopt these good water habits: drink before every meal, during and after exercise, and have a bottle nearby to sip throughout the day.
Can You Drink Too Much Water?
Drinking too much water is rare and usually only happens during endurance events such as a marathon. Yet, it still makes good sense not to chug an oversized bottle of water all at once. You don’t want all your daily needs of water all in one sitting – that puts too big of a burden on your kidneys. Keep a water bottle with you and sip throughout the day.
Do you sit in front of a computer screen all day? People who stare at screens all day blink significantly less often – and blinking is one of the ways we keep our eyes lubricated. “People who sit at computers all day should drink more to stay better hydrated, which helps keep their eyes from drying.” Notes optometric physician Dr. Steven Weisfeld.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of evidence that supports drinking lots of water to help dry skin. According to dermatologists, dry skin is an external problem that should be treated from the outside. Dry skin lacks oils, which is why topical moisturizing creams can help.
Your skin is a giant organ, like all your organs, it needs to be properly hydrated. Dehydrated skin is different than dry skin. Dehydrated skin may be itchy and dull and cause under-eye circles, as well as darkness around your nose that looks like shadows. While dry skin can be challenging to rectify, to cure dehydrated skin you only need to drink more water.
Sources of Water Not To Overlook
Drinking coffee can contribute to your fluid needs as long as you don’t drink too much coffee. “Consuming 300 mg of caffeine can cause fluid loss, though you can add a small amount of milk to offset this,” states Dr. Drayer. (A regular cup of coffee has between 50 and 100 mg of caffeine). If caffeinated drinks sometimes have you running to the bathroom, don’t worry, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, you still keep more fluid than you lose.
According to a study from Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, water isn’t the only way to hydrate. A drink with a little sugar, fat or protein will actually keep you hydrated longer. Dairy Milk (or other dairy milk alternatives), which has a little of each, is one of your best choices. Those nutrients help slow your body from emptying its fluids. Milk also has sodium, which helps us put the fluid to good use.
If water is too plain to entice you to drink enough, try adding citrus or cucumber slices or fresh berries for more flavor. Enjoy your water!
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will look forward to meeting you!