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8 x 8 to Slake

It's funny that often when I have an idea for a topic percolating, one of you will reach out with a question that aligns with it. The question is "How much water do I need to drink daily?"


The mantra for water intake is typically 8 ounces x 8 glasses, or 64 ounces.



Recently, I wondered if I was drinking enough water daily myself and started to measure my intake over a period of a few weeks. The first thing I did when I started my little experiment was to measure out exactly 8 ounces or (1) cup of water to be sure I was being accurate.


What I noticed straightaway is that 8 ounces is not a lot. Most of my drinking glasses are 12 ounces. And my water bottle is 16.9 ounces, which I fill up at least 3 times per day, which is an intake of almost 51 ounces.


The water bottle is just "9 to 5" (or working) water. I also have water (in 12 oz glasses) in the morning and evening, anywhere from 2-4. Do the math - I am doing OK with anywhere from 75 to 99 ounces of water per day. That was a relief.


However, there were times when I wasn't filling up the water bottle as often, when I got busy. Keeping track of my intake over a period a time helped me be more aware of making sure I stayed hydrated.


Other things can impact your hydration needs, such as environment. If it is a hot, humid day you probably need to drink more water. If you are exerting yourself (housekeeping or exercise) you may want to increase your water intake. If you are lactating, you want to increase your water. If you spend more time outdoors, you want to stay hydrated, especially in the summer months. If you are ill, and have a fever or infection, or are losing fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, up your intake.


Did you know?

  • If you live in the mountains or at a high altitude, you need more water.

  • If you eat spicy, salty or sugary foods, you need more water.

  • If you drink a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages, you need more water.

  • If you are diabetic or take a diuretic, you need more water.


So the 8x8 rule is not absolute and over time, we've realized that imposing this external "one size fits all" rule may not be the best approach. Now, many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst.


You don’t need to go overboard forcing down glasses of water when you’re not thirsty. Just pay attention to your thirst mechanism. We have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are. And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable.


Besides thirst, pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker.


Water is essential for life.

You can only survive a few days without it. Being hydrated is essential for health. I could argue that water is the most essential nutrient of them all. Water is needed for every cell and function in your body.


Water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion. It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat. It helps to regulate your body temperature and helps maintain electrolyte balance. It is also great for your skin to stay well hydrated otherwise it can get tight and dry, and prone to more wrinkles!


Drinking enough water helps us reduce the risk of constipation pesky urinary tract infections (UTI), and decreases the risk of kidney stones. It can also help you lose weight, especially if you drink a glass of water before a meal, and thus consume less. Your body can't differentiate between thirst and hunger, so when you get a cue to eat, have a drink of water first.


I have gotten into the habit of drinking a full glass of water, preferably room temperature, when I wake up. I do this for two reasons: 1) it sets me up for regular water intake for the rest of the day and 2) after sleeping for 8 hours you can wake up slightly dehydrated. Did you know that even a 2% decrease in hydration can result in mental impairment such as dizzyness, lightheadedness, headache irritability, or a lack of concentration? Not how I want to start my day. And neither do you. Give it a try.


But, just as way too little water is life-threatening, so is way too much. There is a condition called hyponatremia in which your salt levels become dangerously low as a result of overhydration. As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balance!


What counts toward my water intake?

All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs. Water is usually the best choice.


Many foods contain significant amounts of water. Especially fruits and vegetables like cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water, so they are good sources of hydration.


The idea that coffee and tea don't count toward your water intake is an old myth. While caffeine may make you have to go to the bathroom more, that effect isn't strong enough to negate the hydrating effects of its water. Plus, if you're tolerant to it (i.e., regularly drink it) then the effect is even smaller. So, you don’t need to counteract your daily cup(s) of coffee and/or tea.


Conclusion

There is no magic number of the amount of water you need. Everyone is different. Children, pregnant women, elderly people need more. Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea will also increase your short-term need for more water. The most important thing is to pay attention to your thirst. Other signs you need more water are dark urine, sweating, constipation, and kidney stones.

Water is your best source of fluids. But other liquids, including caffeinated ones, help too. Just consider the effects the other ingredients have on your health as well. And many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don't forget about them.


Ditch the “one size fits all” external rule, and pay more attention to your body’s subtle cues for water.


If you are curious about a health or wellness topic I haven't covered, reach out to me. I am always up for researching and reporting out to you on what I find.



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