Water – it’s easily the most important source for all life. Animals need it, plants need it. Humans need it, too, for basic survival.
Food is important too. But we can go over 3 weeks without it, in some cases (not recommended, of course)!
On the other hand, the average human being only lasts up to 10 days without any water—and only 3 days at the least.
Clearly, water is important. There are varying opinions on how much water we really need, however. In the past, health experts have recommended the “8 glasses of 8 oz. per day” rule – many still hold that to be true, even now.
Others recommend even more, suggesting that most of us border on nonstop dehydration – almost constantly, by today’s requirement standards!
So what is the truth? Are we really all dehydrated, even if we don’t realize it? Let’s take a look.
New Water Facts, and New Water Guidelines
Yes, that means you can stop counting your glasses of water with dedicated fervor.
In 2004, new studies doled out by The Food and Nutrition Board declared new general water standards for the public: about 2.7 liters (91 oz.) of water per day are required for women, and 3.7 liters (125 oz.) are required for men. (2)
So now it’s “stop counting cups,” and time to get yourself that pre-measured sports water bottle – a big fad today, we all know. On top of it all, we have to drink more than 8 glasses a day with these new standards.
The combination athlete/mathlete I’m sure will love counting their way toward this health-goal “watermark.” It could also be a helpful target for the intensely health-conscious – but do you have to follow it to a T?
For those tired of counting and measuring—there are other ways to watch your water intake. When you get down to it too, it’s not just about counting and measuring. This also comes from the very same words in the Food and Nutrition Board’s water requirement report. (2)
The Real Concern: Dehydration
With water intake, the biggest sign that you’re not getting enough is dehydration, plain and simple. Dehydration is unpleasant and unhealthy: it’s not rocket science.
Severe dehydration can and does happen. Sometimes, it can be perilous and take lives. But this is usually triggered by other factors: like electrolyte imbalance, excessive exercise, excess heat, or severe digestive illness and infection. (3)
This might partially be why it’s such a mounting health concern, though avoiding the condition can get blown a bit out of proportion.
The uncomfortable symptoms arising from dehydration are ones that human beings naturally avoid, and which we drink water to relieve. The human body is made up of about 60% water, a level our bodies constantly (and naturally) maintain on their own. (5) As the natural consequence of things, we lose some of this water through urination or sweating.
When our body thinks we need more water, it will tell us, through thirst or other means.
When it comes to knowing whether or not you need more water, you’re probably all set—it won’t escape your notice before it becomes a real issue. (4) But just in case, here are some symptoms that you could be springing a few leaks.
- Dry mouth and thirst
If you have any of the above symptoms, try drinking a glass of water to see if they go away.
Here’s a nice tip to gauge your water needs: after urinating, does your urine look darker or lighter than usual? If the former, you could use a bit more water before the end of the day. If the latter—don’t sweat it (no pun intended). (3)
Why All The Water Worry?
If you are a moderately-active, healthy adult, you probably don’t need to worry too much about drinking enough water. But there are other factors that may give you good reason to pay attention to water needs.
Athletes (or those with high physical work demands, especially outdoors) must pay a lot more attention to water intake. They can lose up to 3% of their body’s water through sweating, which contributes to diminished brain function, mood, and concentration, while increasing headaches. (6)
The elderly are also more prone to dehydration issues. With age, the function of our kidneys and bladder deteriorates – so those over age 60 need to pay closer attention, as they lose more water through urination. (3, 7)
On the same note, those with kidney disease or decreased kidney function must adopt water-smart habits. (7) There are also a number of illnesses, conditions, and symptoms where water intake is of utmost importance—or it could be a matter of life or death.
Trust that your body will tell you if you are in danger. The answer won’t always be in the amount in your water bottle, necessarily.
Water Intake is Most Important If You Are:
- An athlete, or exercise very often
- Work a physically demanding job (especially in the sun)
- Elderly (over the age of 60)
- Diagnosed with a kidney disease
Hydration is of Utmost Importance If You Have:
Get Water From Food – Not Just Your Glass
Do you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables? Then you could already be meeting around 20% of your daily water needs! (8)
That’s right—you don’t just get water from the faucet, tap, bottle, or cooler. With the appropriate diet, you get a good chunk of what you need right there on your plate.
Are there foods or drinks that interfere with hydration? It is commonly thought that tea, coffee, carbonated beverages, and alcohol consumption are culprits—even to the extent that you need to drink more water to make up for the fluids they sap from you, in one way or another.
Studies reveal that these beverages don’t pose any danger to your daily hydration needs, if consumed in moderation. (9, 10) However, long-term, excessive consumption of coffee, tea, and alcohol is a whole other story—take alcohol hangovers or coffee withdrawal, for example.
Coffee is Not All Bad. It’s A Scientific Fact: Drinking Coffee Helps You Live Longer
- Citrus Fruits
- Apples (8)
Beverages That Dehydrate (When Used In Excess):
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Besides keeping dehydration at bay, there’s more to water health-wise than you might think.
Studies reveal that a glass of cold water, drank ½ hour before each meal, naturally supports weight loss—particularly in the elderly.
How Does Water Achieve Weight Loss?
- It boosts metabolism
- Reduces calories absorbed from food (to increase fullness)
- Cold water burns even more calories, from the body bringing it up to temperature
There’s stats to prove it too—with one case study revealing that those who drink pre-meal water could stand to lose up to 44% more weight than those who don’t, and in less than 2 weeks. (13)
The “Take-Away” From Drinking Enough Water
The bottom line? If you are a healthy, moderately active adult, no need to sweat the water requirements. Listen to your instincts: they’ll tell you if you need water.
Feeling thirsty? Pour yourself a glass. The rest will be taken care of if you eat a healthy diet.
However, if you DO sweat everyday—as an athlete, or other person with a physically rigorous schedule—you will need to pay better attention to your body’s water needs.
If you are elderly (over 60) on the other hand, or have certain health issues/symptoms, double check your fluid intake too. Make sure you’re meeting the Food and Nutrition Board’s requirements, and try incorporating water before meals into your routine if you’re seeking a natural way of losing weight!
Do you think you drink enough water? What are your stories and water-drinking experiences? Talk to us, comment below!
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