We’ve all heard that drinking 8 cups of water a day is the right amount for us, but is that really true? Let’s check how much water do you need daily!
I know I drink water like a horse, and I drink 3 to 5 cups with my midday meal alone. If I were to drink just eight glasses of water per day, I’d probably shrivel up and die from thirst. So how much water do I really need? How much you do you need?
Your Body Knows Best
Water is essential to life. It makes up a huge proportion of the human body, 75% in infants, up to 55% in the elderly.
When it comes to drinking water, listen to your body. It will tell you, “Hey pal, how about some hydration? I’m getting a bit parched over here!”
Your mouth will get a bit dry, and you’ll find that your head feels full of wool when you need to drink water bad. When it reaches this level, it means that you’re in serious need of hydration. In fact, if you notice that your mouth is very dry, your body is probably already suffering from a lack of water.
Your thirst is only noticeable when the concentration of your blood increases by about 2%, and dehydration only starts at about 5%.
Very few of us notice that our mouths are leathery and dry throughout the day, as we are fairly busy people. When we do notice, we usually take steps to drink more water, and we feel great that we’re solving our thirst problem.
However, drinking more water than we’re accustomed to can actually be good for our health!
Beyond dehydration, even scientists don’t truly know how hydration affects our overall health. Although, currently there is lots of research being conducted most prominently into the effect proper water intake may have on the prevention of chronic diseases.
The US Dietary Recommendations for water are pretty lax, considering they are based on a one time collection of blood samples that doesn’t take into consideration different age groups, activity level etc and many feel they should be further looked at and adjusted (source).
Just as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently revised their existing recommendation due to the realization of how essential water is for life and health.
The Importance of Water for Focus and Memory
Mild dehydration produces alterations in a number of important aspects of cognitive function such as concentration, alertness and short-term memory in children aged between 10 and 12 years, young adults aged between 18 and 25 years and in the oldest adults aged between 50 and 82 years.
In recent studies, participants were dehydrated to approximately 2.8% either through heat exposure or treadmill exercise. The results showed that “performance was impaired on tasks examining visual perception, short-term memory, and psychomotor ability.”
Water and Weight Loss
You’ve probably heard that drinking water can help to make weight loss easier, and studies in 2003, 2007, and 2008 proved that increasing water intake can help your body burn more calories, reduce the amount of food you eat, and speed up your metabolism. (source)
Water can help you to lose weight, but the primary way that it does so is by filling your stomach and stopping you from eating and drinking things that will increase your body’s calorie count.
So How Much is Enough?
The Institute of Medicine has determined how much water the average man or woman needs to drink to be healthy:
Men — The average man should drink 3.7 liters or 15 cups of water per day.
Women — The average woman should drink 2.7 liters or 11 cups of water per day.
That’s a lot more than the 8 cups that you’re used to drinking! The good news is that you don’t need to get all of your water just by drinking!
The recommendations above is for total water intake, which means liquid in all of its forms. The water can come from fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, and, yes, even beer! (I know what I’m going to do to increase my liquid intake this weekend!)
In the United States it is estimated that about 22% of water comes from our food intake while it would be much higher in European countries, particularly a country like Greece with its higher intake of fruits and vegetables.
Lifehack: Make drinking water every hour on the hour a habit. If you drink one cup every hour, you’ll get more than your 8 glasses per day. Once you get used to drinking one glass every hour, it will be easy to drink 2 or 3 glasses per hour. You’ll have to pee a lot more, but it will help regulate your body!
A Word for the Wise: Cut Out Flavored Drinks
Drinking more water is just the smart thing to do, but many people opt to drink other liquids in order to increase their total water intake throughout the day.
While drinking soda, coffee, tea, beer, and other drinks will help you to get more liquids in your body, you’re doing two things wrong:
- Adding Calories — All of the drinks above have calories, which means that you’re adding extra calories to your diet and giving yourself more energy to burn to avoid gaining weight.
- Adding the Wrong Nutrients — Coffee and tea both contain healthy nutrients, but they usually are accompanied by sugar and milk. Beer and soda both have lots of sugar and calories, so they’ll just go straight to your gut.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that by opting for water instead of a calorie filled soda, you save 240 calories. This is a serious amount for anyone watching their weight.
Studies have shown recently Water’s importance for prevention of nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases. This has become more prevalent in recent year due to shift towards large portions of fluids coming from caloric beverages. (source)
The truth is that water is the best thing for you to drink if you want to get more liquid and hydrate yourself properly!
It’s a calorie-free beverage, so you won’t have to worry about increasing the amount of food you eat every day. There’s nothing harmful in clean drinking water, so toxins and chemicals aren’t a concern with water.
If you think you aren’t getting enough water daily, try some of these tips supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (source):
- Carry a water bottle for easy access when you are at work of running errands.
- Freeze some freezer safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
- Choose water when eating out. Generally, you will save money and reduce calories.
- Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.
Find the fruits and vegetables that are rich in water and low in calories, and stay hydrated the tasty, low fat way. Watermelons and strawberries are both 92% water, and you can get about 115 grams of water from an apple or a red tomato. Get enough water and keep that calorie consumption low by eating these healthy fruits and veggies!
How Much Water is Needed to Survive in an Emergency?
It is important to note that as possibly the most essential nutrient out there, without which, we could not sustain life, being prepared when it comes to a possible emergency situation is critical.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to survive in an emergency, we need 2.5 to 3 liters of water per day that is safe to drink.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also tells us that in an emergency situation you should have one gallon of water per person for 3 days for drinking, cooking and cleaning yourself.
Add more water to your diet, and don’t be content with just the 11 to 15 cup minimum. It will do your body a whole lot of good to get more water, so bottom’s up!