There is a common misconception that everyone should drink two liters (68 ounces, or about eight 8-oz glasses) of water per day however this is not supported by scientific research. It is however a good rule of thumb. But why is this not an accurate statement? Well, it is because an individual's need for water will vary depending on their body composition, activity level, diet and environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.
Understanding how much water you need each day will better help you in staying hydrated during the hot summer months. Let's look at some factors that will influence our need for water.
Generally men will need more water than women. A person's body composition influences how much of the body's weight is composed of water. The composition of muscle is ~75% water, while fat is only composed of 25% water. Therefore, if you are a muscular male you will need more water than a male who is less muscular. Men by nature have more lean muscle mass compared to that of women and thus require more water to maintain proper hydration.
Approximately 80% of our water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages. The other 20% comes from the food we eat.
The foods and beverages we consume can play an important role in our need for water. Depending upon what we are consuming, we may either be getting additional water or loosing water.
When you eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables you are not only consuming foods that are low in calories and rich in nutrients, you are also getting the added benefit of consuming additional water. Fruits and vegetables can help keep you well hydrated because they contain large amounts of water.
If you are eating a diet high in protein, you will need to consumer more water. This is because our bodies require more water to break down protein and rid the body of nitrogen waste.
The best way to ensure you are staying well hydrated is to drink steady amounts of water throughout the day. But did you know that what you drink is just as important as how much you drink?
On days that you are working up a sweat, consider reaching for water instead of your favorite caffeinated beverage. Caffeine may act as a mild diuretic for some, meaning you may find yourself headed to the restroom more frequently. The good news for those that regularly consume caffeinated beverages, studies show that you less likely to be affected by the diuretic affects and will naturally replenish your fluids within a 24 hour time period. However, keep in mind that is under "normal" conditions. If you are outside on a hot day or are participating in strenuous activity and sweating more than normal, consider reaching for a cool glass water and limit your intake of caffeine.
Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Consider limiting or avoiding alcohol on hot summer days. Why? Alcohol also acts as a diuretic. Therefore consider drinking at least 4 ounces of water between drinks, to help prevent dehydration. And if you are mixing both caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as you are much more likely to become dehydrated – so use extreme caution.
Our activity level also plays a major role in determining how much water we will need. When you are physically active, your body loses water through sweat. Sweat is used to cool your body by causing a decrease in core temperature through evaporative cooling at the skins surface.
Staying hydrated before, during and after activity is important whether working out on the farm or working out at the gym.
- One to two hours before your workout, drink 15 to 20 ounces of water
- 15 minutes before you begin, drink between 8 and 10 ounces of water
- During your workout, drink another 8 ounces every 15 minutes
Remember these are recommendation and you may need to drink more - especially if it is hot our and you are sweating heavily.
How do you know if you are well hydrated?
You cannot always rely on thirst to indicate your need for water. Thirst often lags behind the body's need for water. A good indicator of your hydration status is the color of your urine. Yup, I said urine! If your urine is a dark amber color or has a strong odor, you may not be drinking enough water. Your urine should be colorless or a pale yellow color. And you should be urinating at least four times a day.
Keeping tabs on your urine color may be one of the best methods to help you monitor you hydration status! Why? Because you don't have to worry about keeping track of how many ounces you've consumed for the day or if you need to add additional fluid in because you ate or drank something that may contribute to dehydration. Plus it adapts to your situation - depending on your diet, beverage intake, summer temperatures and your physical activity!
Tips to Help YOU Drink More Water
- Have an 8 ounce glass of water before heading out the door in the morning in addition to your morning caffeinated beverage
- Add a slice of lemon or zero-calorie flavoring to your water
- Keep a bottle of water with you at all times – especially when out running errands
- Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet - remember fruits and vegetables are high in water and low in calories!
- Keep track of your water intake – Use your smart phone and other fun apps
- Have one last glass of water before heading to bed
Today's post was written by Diane Reinhold, MPH, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson & Winnebago Counties. She specializes in chronic disease prevention, food preservation and worksite wellness.