Your body is comprised of a large percentage of water. 60 percent of your body’s weight is water, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you break this down to approximate percentage levels, muscles are 75 percent water, bones are 25 percent water and blood is 82 percent water. Therefore, adequate hydration is the key to health. If you’re asking how much water should you drink per day, the answer depends on your health, activity level and your location. If you live in a warm climate, or one at a higher elevation, you need more water than someone who lives at sea level.
Why Drink Water?
Your body uses water for toxin removal such as the byproduct lactic acid from exercise. Your blood transports nutrients to cells on water and water is also used to help keep your nose, ears, throat and lungs moist and keep you comfortable. Water also helps keep you looking young by maintaining healthy skin. Your skin is the largest organ and without the absorption of water, will become dry in appearance and begin to lose its elasticity. Keep these processes in mind when asking how much water should you drink each day.
Water transports certain electrolytes, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, into the cells to provide energy for your daily activities and workouts. The concentration of the water and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium need to remain at an even level. If you question how much water should you drink every day and want to understand the reasons for the answer to how much water should you drink a day, embrace the reasons are to avoid over-hydration and dehydration.
When you over-hydrate, your electrolyte concentration goes down, which can result in a reduced amount of sodium in the blood. This will affect your muscular contractions and your physical activity. If you are dehydrated, the electrolyte concentration elevates. Symptoms of dehydration include a decreased energy level, fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, weakness and lightheadedness.
How Much Water Should You Drink a Day?
Water is your body’s way of cleansing itself. If you wanted to rinse out a milk jug you wouldn’t use juice, soft drinks, alcohol, or other beverages- you would use clean water. Think of your body as a large milk carton that needs to be cleaned on a daily basis.
To help cleanse the body and maintain optimal health, water is what you should be sending through. Other liquids such as juice and soft drinks contain extra calories and sugar that you do not need.
To help with your fluid intake, keep water near your desk or in your car for easy access. Avoid drinking caffeinated or sugar beverages as these may lead to dehydration. An indicator that you are drinking adequate amount of water is clear urine. If your urine is a dark yellow color, you may want to increase your idea of how much water should you drink per day.
How Much Water Should You Drink a Day?
Water is lost through breathing, sweating, excreting and urinating. Therefore, it needs to be replaced on a daily basis. If you exercise, you lose more water and if you have a health condition such as diabetes, or high blood pressure, your needs for water may be different, so it is important to speak with your doctor.
Your exercise needs also vary as people exercise in different temperatures, for different durations and while wearing various types of clothing. Some clothes restrict the amount of sweat and water lost, while others, such as layers of clothing may cause you to sweat more. Plus your individual sweating rate is different from everyone else’s- you may sweat more or less depending on your genetics and this changes the answer to your question of how much water a day should you drink?
Recommendations for How Much Water Should You Drink a Day
“Do I have to drink 8 glasses of water every day?” The 8 glasses of water guideline, is just that- a guideline. It is one way to track your fluid intake, but not all fluid comes from beverages.
The Mayo Clinic recommends a daily intake of 13 cups or 3 Liters of fluid for men and 9 cups or 2.2 Liters of fluid for women. While this total is fluid intake, the majority of this fluid should be water. Water is contained in coffee, tea, lemonade, smoothies, soda drinks, juices and soups, but those types of fluids won’t flush your body clean. Water is the best choice.
According to the Food and Nutrition Board, 80 percent of your fluid needs should be met through beverages such as water. The other 20 percent can be met through food intake. According to the American Council on Exercise, water is best absorbed in the presence of sodium, which is why some people choose to replenish their hydration levels with sports drinks.
If you have difficulties drinking the recommended amounts of water, choose fruits and vegetables with a high water content as a substitute. Select fruits such as grapes, watermelons, strawberries, oranges and grapefruits, which also provide many essential vitamins and minerals. The water in these fruits is absorbed and helps keep you hydrated. High-water content vegetables include spinach lettuce, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, and broccoli. These are always available for quick snacks throughout the day to boost your hydration levels.
Water keeps your internal temperature cool during exercise. You sweat as you work out so water is lost and must be replenished. Before your workout, the American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 8 ounces of water between 20 and 30 minutes prior to activity. During exercise, drink 7 to 10 ounces every 20 minutes with an additional 8 ounces after 30 consecutive minutes of exercise. For exercise sessions less than an hour, water is typically enough to replenish your hydration. For those exercising longer than an hour, or competing in races or other events, additional electrolytes may be needed in the form of a sports drink.
This is especially true as long as you will be eating a meal within a few hours. Otherwise, try combining water with salty foods such as nuts, crackers or pickles. The sodium will help your body absorb water.
You can also weigh yourself before and after a workout, since much of the weight lost during an exercise routine is from a loss of water. Aim to drink approximately 16 to 24 ounces for every pound of weight lost during your exercise routine.
A quick way to tell if you are dehydrated is to examine your urine color. In general, your urine should be a pale yellow color. If urine is dark yellow, or at the extreme of brown, you are dehydrated. Immediately re-hydrate with water, or seek medical attention. Typically water is readily available from your tap, or is inexpensive to purchase.
Dehydration is more apt to occur in high altitude locations and in extremely high temperature places. Also, you can lose more than a quart of water during a workout. If you experience signs of dehydration such as muscle cramps, loss of coordination, decreased performance, brain fog, or severe headache, increase your fluid intake.
Your performance can be severely affected by your hydration levels. According to the American College on Sports Medicine, a study on dehydrated athletes showed that subjects who drank water were able to exercise for three minutes more than those who only rinsed their mouths with water.
If dehydration continues, your body is unable to cool itself through sweating and you risk heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Thirst is not an adequate indicator, as if you are thirsty or have a dry mouth, you are already on your way to dehydration.
Known as water intoxication or hyponatremia, over-hydration is also dangerous to your body as the electrolyte concentration is not in balance. You have too little sodium in your blood stream since it is diluted by the water.
The Unique Value of Water
Water is the best beverage. Your body cannot sustain life for longer than one week without water. Plus, other beverages such as milk or juice contain calories and possibly sugar. These drinks have their benefits such as calcium and vitamins, but do not replenish your body the way water does. If you struggle to avoid caffeinated drinks such as soda pop and coffee and some teas, keep in mind that caffeine can remove water from your system and contribute to dehydration.