This is a commonly asked question, and I’ve read many different answers. Here’s what you need to know about your water intake!
Benefits Of Drinking Water
Besides the obvious “staying alive,” drinking water helps boost your mood, helps you focus, and improves your concentration. It also has been shown to help treat constipation, headaches, and prevent a hangover. All my 30 years old and up friends know that we now have to drink a glass of water between glasses of wine. Hooray for being older and wiser! Dehydrated people tend to feel more stressed out and fatigued, so drinking more water can help prevent and relieve anxiety and feeling whooped.
Water’s Role In Our Bodies
It dissolves, transports, cleans, and is a catalyst for important chemical reactions. It lubricates, provides padding, helps synthesize proteins, and is a mineral source! Water helps regulate your body temperature with sweating. It also increases our plasma volume, which means our heart doesn’t have to work as hard to get our blood moving.
Drinking water increases feelings of fullness so you consume less calories. Studies have shown people who drink 500 mL (17 ounces) of water before meals lost 44% more weight than those who didn’t over a 12-week period. Drinking water 30 minutes before a meal seems to be the most effective.
Drinking 500 mL of water can also temporarily boost your metabolism by 24-30%! If the water is cold, your body will burn more energy warming it up. By replacing high caloric drinks with water, you lose weight by consuming less calories. Water also helps to flush out toxins in our bodies. This helps keep you regular and can prevent toxic build up, which may cause health problems down the road.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Keeping It Simple
To keep it simple, you can start with following the 8×8 rule: 8 oz of water, 8 times a day. There’s no research supporting this rule, but it’s a great place to start. You can monitor your thirst, how you feel, how often you use the restroom, and your urine color to see if you need to add more or cut back. If it’s hot outside, you may need up to two extra cups a day, and if you’re exercising, you might need 16 cups a day. If you’re a larger person you probably need more than 8 cups, and smaller people may need less.
The good news is that studies show diuretics like coffee and tea can count toward your water intake since they don’t have a significant negative effect on hydration. Some researchers disagree, so keep in mind how you feel and drink accordingly.
Another way to keep it simple is to pay attention to your pee color. Fun, huh? If it’s colorless, slightly yellow, or pale gold, you are hydrated.
For My Fellow Nerds
To get a little technical, we have two formulas you can use. The first one is based on how much you weigh. For every Kg of bodyweight, you should consume 30-40 mL of water. To get your bodyweight in Kg, divide by 2.2, or use this handy conversion site. And since some of us Americans don’t deal well with the metric system, 30-40 mL is a little over 1/8 of a cup. For example, a 175lb (79Kg) person should drink 11-12 cups (2765 mL) of water.
The second formula is based on your metabolic rate. For every 100 calories of your basal metabolic rate, you should consume 80-110 mL of water. Here’s a site that will help you calculate your BMR. For example, a person who has a BMR of 2000 calories should drink about 8-9 cups of water.
Don’t Wait Until You’re Thirsty
If we eat our fair share of fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes, we should be getting about 4 cups of water from food. Foods high in fat like nuts and seeds don’t have as much water, so keep that in mind. It’s important to plan out how much water you drink and not wait until you’re thirsty.
By the time you feel thirsty, you have already lost 1-2% of your bodyweight. Since water is 60% of our total bodyweight, this is a big deal. By this time, you’re already experiencing a decrease in your clarity, focus, and athletic performance.
Can I Drink Too Much Water?
Drinking too much water is called hyponatremia, and there are several different types. Although rare, it’s life threatening in its advanced stages. The initial symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, swollen hands and feet, confusion, and restlessness. Some doctors blame insomnia and excessive sweating on over-hydration as well. Although drinking 2 gallons of water for weight loss is all the rage, it might be doing more harm than good if your electrolytes are out of balance.
How Nutrients Can Affect Hydration
Many different nutrients can affect our hydration. A diet high in carbohydrates can help us store more water weight. For every 1 gram of carbs stored, we store 3-4 grams of water. An increase in sodium can also increase water storage. On the other hand, if we consume a diet high in protein, we will lose a little extra fluid. Switching from a high carb to a high protein diet, usually helps people lose several pounds of water weight.
Hydration is not just about consuming water, but about keeping a healthy balance between water and electrolytes. You will find links at the end of this article that will help you learn how to replace lost electrolytes. If you’ve read my detox blogs, it’s safe to assume I will not be recommending Gatorade or Powerade ;)
Hydration For Athletes
Athletes should plan out water consumption to prevent dehydration. This is important for intense and/or long workout sessions, hot weather, and if they sweat a lot.
Pre-hydration is important. Plan on drinking 500 mL (about 2 cups) 30 minutes before exercising. During your workout, you should drink 250 mL (about 1 cup) every 15 minutes. If possible, include a mixture that’s a low concentration of carbs and electrolytes.
Rehydrating after your workout is crucial so that recovery is not delayed. Adding protein to your post-workout drink can help reduce soreness and increase recovery. The fine folks at Precision Nutrition recommend a mixture of 30g carbs, 15 g protein, and electrolytes in 600 mL (2.5 cups) of water. Make sure to sip this and not chug to avoid “digestive distress” as Sheldon Cooper would say.
Here’s what I do, not that I’m a water role model… I try to eat mostly whole foods. I try to track about 8 cups of water (not including coffee) on my Waterlogged app. I rarely drink straight from the tap and usually use a water filter. When I drink wine, I drink Ultima electrolyte drink either before, during, or after, and definitely the next day. Since our car accident, my hydration has been hard to control.
If you’re a hardcore athlete you’ll want to be more proactive, and finding a good workout and recovery drink should help. If not, monitor your urine, sip on water through the day, and try to not let yourself get thirsty. If you don’t like water, try to mix it up with carbonated, fruit-infused, or lemon water, or add a healthy, chemical-free powder. Find someone to keep you accountable if you need it. I do- I will slack on this if I’m not checking in (thanks Angela!).
This is a simple way to feel better and lose weight. What can you do today to start this healthy habit? Please keep in mind that water is a limited resource. Drink more, but do your part to conserve in other areas.
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- Authority Nutrition: How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day & 7 Health Benefits of Water
- NCBI: The effect of caffeinated, non-caffeinated, caloric and non-caloric beverages on hydration, Water-induced Thermogenesis, and Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss
- Precision Nutrition: All About Drinking Water, Water and Weight Loss, and All About Dehydration
- Free Drinking Water: How does water help remove harmful toxins from your digestive tract?
- Daily Mail UK: Are you an Aquaholic?
- Berardi, John, PhD, and Ryan Andrews, MS, MA, RD. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. 2nd ed. Print.