I get asked all the time how much you need to hydrate. I also get asked WHAT you should hydrate with and when. I wanted to break down the HOW MUCH a bit today so you had a resource for your hydration needs. Hydration is an important part of your health and if you aren’t drinking enough or drinking enough of the right stuff, you may run into health issues OR just not be completely optimizing your health.
I have at least 3 drinks around me at all times. So you could say I’m really into hydration. It’s not that I’m constantly thirsty it’s that I’m really into drinking liquids AND I like options. Not only that, I like to have access to fluids should I get thirsty. I guess you could call my 3-4 drinks at all times a security blanket. However, I recognize that while I prioritize hydration, everyone else may not, so let’s learn why we need to hydrate & how much hydration we really need.
Why Do You Need to Hydrate?
Let’s take a step back for a second and talk about why hydration even matters. Or wait, does it? Well, yes to put it plain and simple, being hydrated is important and without it can lead to many health issues. You can go a month without food but only 3 days without hydration. I mean, I can’t go a day without fluids so I can’t imagine the torture that would be 3 days.
Your body is over 50% water so CLEARLY, it is important. While I love food and find it incredibly valuable for your health, hydration is just as if not more important for you and your health. Here are a few key reasons why you need to hydrate:
- Digestive health. The go should be easy and water can help move things along appropriately. Constipated? May need more water.
- Muscle health. Water helps provide enough nutrients to the muscles, so for best recovery, you need water to do so. Not recovering from workouts? Could be related to hydration.
- Joint health. Water/fluid lubricates the joints which means more comfort around the joints. Feeling joint pain? Hydration could be a factor.
- Waste elimination. Water helps the kidneys (and all organs for that matter) do what they do best which is filter waste products out of the body. Forget the cleanses you see on Instagram, drink your darn water.
- Temperature regulation. You want to stay warm when it’s cold and cold when it’s warm. Drink water.
- Oral health. Dry mouth can lead to nasty breath, stay hydrated for all of our sakes.
- Skin health. Want supple skin? Drink water, especially because the skin is 70% water AND the largest organ in/on the body.
- Heart health. If you’re dehydrated, your blood volume decreases meaning the heart has to work a little bit harder. Why don’t you do some work for your heart and drink up?
….and many more reasons. Now that we know why you need hydration, let’s learn how much.
How Much Water Do You Need?
It DEPENDS. Shocker I know. However, it really does depends. Most people will tell you that you need 1/2 your body weight in ounces. While I agree, that is a good starting point, it’s not the perfect amount for everyone. Others will tell you that you need a gallon a day (and that you should carry said gallon jug around with you). That is also another “close, but no cigar” type suggestions. Still, others will tell you that you need 8 glasses of water per day. A good starting point, yet again.
The amount of water you need depends on A LOT of different factors and there is no one size fits all as it comes to hydration. Certainly, there are things to look out for to see if you are hydrated enough but let’s start by figuring out what your needs depend on.
Hydration depends on:
- Activity Level
- Sweat Rate (Sweat Rate (mL/min or mL/h) = Sweat Loss/Exercise Time;Sweat Loss = Change in BW + Drink Volume – Urine Volume)
- Environment (i.e. heat, humidity, cold, altitude, etc.)
- Health Status (i.e. pregnant, breastfeeding, sickness, health, etc.)
If you need a baseline amount, the Adequate Intake levels, as set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), is 2.7L/day for females and 3.7L/day for males (sedentary). It is suggested that 20% comes from food and 80% comes from fluids. However, fluid needs may go up to 10L/day based on activity needs. This is just an estimated guess as that’s all Adequate Intake really is.
The AI is a recommended average daily nutrient intake level, based on experimentally derived intake levels or approximations of observed mean nutrient intake by a group (or groups) of apparently healthy people that are assumed to be adequate. (source)
Ok, So How Much?!
First, I have some questions to ask yourself when you are trying to figure out if you are hydrated or not:
- What color is my pee?
- Clear/Light color: for all intents & purposes, you’re hydrated
- Dark/Off Color: may need to drink more water &/or look into what you’re eating/drinking/taking that could be causing a different color
- Am I experiencing any mental fog, fatigue, headaches, etc. ?
- Yes: drink more water to see if it helps
- No: good on ya!
- Do I feel thirst?
- Yes: drink more water
- No: don’t force it, but look for other cues to see if you could benefit from more waer
- Am I relying on non-water fluids to keep myself hydrated?
- Yes: add more water
- No: you’re probably good
- Am I having trouble going #2 (aka constipation)?
- Yes: drink more water to see if it helps
- No: good on ya!
Each question alone won’t tell you how much fluid you need but together they will help get you close. To be honest, thirst & digestion will probably be your biggest markers on if you are drinking enough water or not.
Sassy’s Recommended Intake
I recommend all my clients start with 1/2 their body weight in ounces and go from there. For example:
150 lb female divided by 1/2 = 75lbs = 75 ounces daily
If they feel likes it’s too much and not helping or not sustainable we back off. If they find benefit from it, we continue. If we find that they are still thirsty, we try upping it. There is no hard and fast rule.
I also recommend taking into account any changes to your normal status quo. If you are sweating more, traveling, in a new environment, new health status, etc. your hydration needs may (and will) change.
Once again, there is no right answer, just that you need to listen to your body. If you really have no idea, ask a professional! That’s what we’re here for.
What Do I Hydrate With?
I will do a whole other post on what to hydrate with, but for now, the key is to hydrate with mostly water and water from foods. Ideally 20% from foods & 80% from water itself.
What other questions do you have about hydration?!
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