How Much Water Should You Be Drinking?

The beloved water debate. This is a topic that I cover at least once a day between friends, family and clients. 

The question of how much water your body needs to stay hydrated can be a bit tricky. Is it eight glasses a day? Half your body weight in ounces? Those are all common suggestions to follow when trying to stay hydrated. But is there a definitive answer to how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis? 

We all have different hydration needs that vary depending on our health, activity level, diet, and climate. 

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but there is no specific “one size fits all” recommendation. So if someone tells you to carry around a gallon jug and finish it by the end of the day, run the opposite direction. 

Water is critical for for everyone. Water makes up 60 percent of our body weight, and even that can vary depending on size and gender. Hydration can come from water, food, or metabolic water production. Research has given us some general guidelines. Healthy adults should drink at the very least 2 liters, or 8.5 cups of water every day. 

Why would there be differences in optimal intake for different people?

While considering optimal hydration there are a few factors to keep in mind. You must take into account the intensity of your fitness routine, the temperature outdoors, and current health status. Women must also take extra things into consideration like being pregnant or lactating.

If you have an exercise regimen of any kind then hydration becomes even more important. You have hydration requirements greater than those individuals who are sedentary by about one to three cups per day. Performing exercise for extended periods of time, especially over an hour, makes electrolytes (sodium and potassium) imperative to hydration. Replacing electrolytes that are lost through sweating helps avoid the condition of having too little sodium in your blood.

Similarly, living in warm weather with high temperatures or humidity causes greater fluid loss than that of individuals living in more temperate climates. For this reason additional fluids and electrolytes are recommended for people lucky enough to live where the sun always shines.

Lastly, pregnant or lactating women require more fluids for adequate hydration in the range of 10 to 14 additional cups per day. Putting their recommended daily fluid intake level to around 4.5 liters or 18 cups.

What can you do to ensure you are drinking enough water?

Optimal hydration can be reached through drinking various fluids and by eating water-dense foods.

Findings from a recent study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggest that regardless of the fluids ingested, the body knows how to use them for optimal hydration. Researchers observed a group of healthy males, randomized to varying sources of hydration for 24 hours. They were randomized to either consume water, water and diet soda, water and regular soda, or water with regular soda, diet soda, and orange juice mixed. After testing the subjects’ urine for biological markers of hydration and dehydration, the scientists discovered that all of the men were adequately hydrated.

Coffee, despite some common beliefs, is also a good hydrator. 

How does hydration effect your weight loss efforts?

Hydration is eminent to health and wellness and can even contribute to weight gain or weight loss. Research shows some of your favorite beverages can help your hydration levels. But you must remember that some of those options aren't calorie free. Make smart decisions when consuming some of your favorites. The sugar free version of your favorite soda or coffee not loaded with sugar could lead to better weight-loss success. 

Proper hydration plays a role in counteracting overeating. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger so food is eaten instead of drinking water or other fluids. A good idea is to first hydrate with a glass of water, a cup of coffee or tea, or any other sugar-free beverage before grabbing a snack.

Staying properly hydrated also plays a role in thermoregulation. A body that is properly hydrated burns more calories than a body that is dehydrated. 

My top 3 optimal hydration tips for success. 

1) Never allow yourself to be thirsty. 
2) Eat plenty of water dense fruits and vegetables. These include cucumbers, bell peppers, and watermelon. They all contribute to optimal hydration as well. 
3) Keep fluids with you where ever you go. If you have it with you then you will likely stay hydrated. 

Tucker MA. Ganio MS. Adams JD et al. Hydration status over the 24-H is not affected by ingested beverage composition. J A Coll Nutri. 2014