You Need to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day…or Do You?

“Drink 8 glasses of water a day” is something we’ve all heard so many times we’re pretty much numb to it, along with the general “you need to drink more water,” and other similar words of advice. But do you really need to drink 8 glasses a day? Here’s a look a 6 claims that people make about water, and some insight into them.

lemon water
Yummm… an ice cold jar of water.

1. You need to drink 8 glasses of water a day:

While a faithful standby, this is not exactly true. The amount of water that you need to stay adequately hydrated will vary depending on differences in lifestyle, such as:

Where you liveYou’ll need to drink more water to stay properly hydrated if you live in hotter and/or more humid climate.

How much you exercise- The more you work out, the more water your body loses, and the more you need to drink to replenish it.

Body type- The amount a large person needs to drink versus someone smaller obviously matters.

Medications/specific health conditions- Some medications will dehydrate you, so it’s important to drink extra if this is your case. Also, when you vomit, have diarrhea, or have a fever, your body is losing fluids, which is why when you’re sick you need to… “drink lots of fluids.” Sometimes a sports drink like Gatorade is recommended to replace lost electrolytes, but unless that is stated by your doctor, water is usually a safe thing to go with.

To sum it up, the larger and more active you are, the more water you will need-especially if you live in the tropics with chronic diarrhea. The old “8 glasses a day” isn’t a bad thing to go by, but a more exact guideline is provided by the Institute of Medicine, stating: “An average adult man  will need around 13 cups of fluid every day, and an average adult woman will need about 9 cups of fluid every day.”

If you’re going to go by one thing to determine how much you need to drink though, go by the color of your urine. Lighter colored, similar to lemonade, means you’re probably well hydrated, whereas dark colored, closer to apple juice, means you need to drink more fluids.

with lemon
…with Lemon.

2. Water or “water diets” make you lose weight:

This is very debatable, and honestly, there haven’t been enough published studies to prove that it does or doesn’t work for everybody. However, one study did show promising results when it came to water playing a part in weight loss in people middle-aged and older. The study took a number of overweight and obese people considered inactive, and split them up. The control group simply followed a calorie-controlled diet, whereas the second group followed the same diet, but drank 500 milliliters of water before each meal.

The results? After keeping this up for 12 weeks both groups lost weight due to the diet change, but on average the water-drinking group lost 5 pounds more. They reported feeling more full and were less hungry, so scientists concluded the water acted as an appetite suppressant. Other reasons water might contribute to weight loss is that, if you replace sugary or sweet beverages with plain h2o, you’re lessening your calorie intake. A year long-follow up study found that the control group had, on average, gained some weight after stopping their diet, while the water-drinking group weighed, on average, slightly less than they did after stopping the diet. Those who drank water during the study voluntarily continued to drink water before meals afterwards, which suggests water may also help weight loss rebound. A quote from the author of the study:

“Drinking more water is a pretty simple strategy that may be helpful to people trying to lose weight. We’re not saying, “Drink more water and the body fat will melt away”. But for people who are trying to lose weight and trying to follow a low-cal diet, it’s something they can do as part of that.”

—Senior study author Brenda Davy

3. Water flushes toxins from your system:

While some doctors have disagreed with this, the overall consensus is that it does help flush toxins out of vital organs, and carries nutrients to all your cells as well. This is not to say that your kidneys will become super-kidneys and your liver will filter wine into water, but it is still needed to keep things flowing smoothly and efficiently when it comes to toxin building up.

how water and lemon
It’s good hot too.

4. Too much water can be deadly:

Can you drink too much water-enough to be fatal? Yes, but it’s also very rare in the average adult. The vast majority of cases of fatal “water intoxication” occur in athletes in endurance sports, or people consuming vast amounts of water for a competition. It’s not easy to accidently drink too much water.

When you drink an extreme excess of water you dilute your body’s fluids, because you’re not replenishing electrolytes, despite staying hydrated. Your body attempts to balance out this imbalance of electrolytes by shifting the diluted fluid through cells, since the inside of the cells have a higher concentration of electrolytes. This causes your cells to swell, including those in the brain. Contained by your skull, the cells can put pressure on the central nervous system, cut off blood flow, or rupture.

It’s not pleasant sounding, but I suppose it’s a reminder that there’s always too much of a good thing. This is why it’s important for athletes like marathon runners to always drink fluid with electrolytes. That way, they can continue to stay hydrated and they maintain the balance as they sweat and lose electrolytes. Don’t go panicking now, it sounds scary, but you’d have to try pretty darn hard to over-hydrate.

5. Only straight water can keep you hydrated properly:

Nope. Things like milk, juice and tea are mostly made up of water. However, they shouldn’t be substituted for all of your fluid intake. You can also get about 20% of your daily fluids from foods, especially fruits and veggies like watermelon or tomato, which are 90% water by weight. Always try to consume plenty of water (it’s cheaper and calorie free) but don’t panic if you aren’t downing 13 liters every day. If your urine is the proper color even though you’re getting a portion of your fluids from things other than water, you’re probably fine.

6. By the time you’re thirsty, it’s already too late:

I am a huge proponent of this one. When you actually feel thirsty you’ve already usually lost 1-2% of the total water amount in your body, which means you are, in a sense, already dehydrated. Think of the thirst mechanism as your body’s emergency signal that you need water A.S.A.P., and don’t let it get to that point. Making sure you’re adequately hydrated can improve your health in countless ways, and it’s as simple as grabbing a glass and filling it with good old h2o.

Don’t you want to go grab a glass?

In the end…

Water is good for us-we need it. Drink the proper amount each day, don’t use it as a sole means to lose weight, and help keep your body running smoothly. There’s a good chance you’ll notice a decrease in headaches, even muscle tension. You’ll have more energy, have an easier time staying alert, and your overall sense of well-being will be much improved. Drinking the proper amount of water is incredibly simple, so just do it. In the end, you’ll feel the difference.

A tip for staying hydrated

If you’re having a hard time finding the motivation to drink water, put it in an appealing container. Something that makes it look cool, refreshing, and tempting, something that reminds you what a glorious substance it is. My favorite thing is a love bottle, but a plain old mason jar works just as well. Make sure to drop a few ice cubes in so you can hear them clinking around, and add a slice of fresh lemon if you like. The frosty condensation that builds up, being able to actually look at the water, and whatever charm a glass bottle holds, makes it much easier to drink. Plus, it’s reusable and much better for the environment.

You may also like 6 Benefits of Regular Exercise & Activity

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1 Comment

  1. Donna says:

    I am reading your article on water. My question is, does a higher alkaline help in hydration? I read that if you add a teaspoon of baking soda to a gallon of water this will raise the alkaline level which in turn will help in true hydration even of your cells. A Stanford Study was done on this, but it was sighted in a better homes and garden mag. for weight loss. I am just very curious.
    Thank You
    I love your website

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