They say you are what you eat. But it’s a lot more accurate to say you are what you drink.
Humans are 60-70% water, and we’re secreting fluids all the time, from blood, to breast milk, to sweat, even the excess saliva that shows up when we smell something delicious.
Common knowledge would have you believe that 8 glasses, or 64 ounces a day is enough to replenish you. But that number is an average. It fails to factor in the difference between men and women, the difference in climate or time of year, and the fact that other liquids, and even plenty of food, actually have water in them. Let alone any individual needs, like breastfeeding women, people with bladder issues, athletes in training, or anyone else who might need more water throughout the day.
The 8 eight ounce glasses is a good ballpark figure, but it may leave you still dehydrated. And depending on the rest of your diet, it may actually mean you’re drinking too much water!
How Much Is Too Much?
We hear so much about the dangers of dehydration, and with good reason. Those of us who live on coffee (ahem. Like me.) work at their desks, or are often on the move, must be mindful to get enough liquid during the day. But unbelievably, it is also possible to drink too much water.
Your body is full of electrolytes. They’re what’s in gatorade that makes it a great drink for athletes in training. It means you can train hard and drink lots, without feeling the effects.
As your electrolytes, especially sodium, drop, fluid moves from outside to inside cells. This is a serious problem that causes cells, including those in your brain, to swell, in a condition called hyponatremia, or overhydration. This condition can cause seizures and psychosis, and may even be fatal. It is extremely rare, and usually shows up as nausea and fatigue, before you need to worry about any inflammation in the brain. In the beginning, it’ll feel a lot like heatstroke, which might prompt you to drink more water.
But if you find yourself unexpectedly overheated, shaking, or with a headache even though you’re drinking plenty of fluids, stop, and rest in the shade. If the feelings are still there in a few minutes, it’s probably not heatstroke, and you should get some help. Especially if you know you’ve been drinking a lot of water.
How Do You Know When It’s Too Much?
Thanks to our work habits, we tend to ignore our bodies, and can’t always tell we’re thirsty. But you should always drink until you don’t feel thirsty anymore. If you check your urine regularly, and it’s a dark yellow, you probably aren’t getting enough water. If it’s pale yellow, you’re probably in good shape. But pale enough to be nearly clear means you may be at risk for overhydration. Keep an eye on your urine, and pay attention to any symptoms that may feel like heat stroke, in spite of drinking a lot of water. If you’re a runner, drink something with added electrolytes, to keep your sodium balanced.
So How Much Water Do You Really Need?
So. It is possible to drink too much water, but it’s also important to look beyond the basic 8 glass rule. So how much water should you drink?
The math works something like this:
Your weight is the first number you need to worry about. Your size determines how much water actually equals the 60-70% you should replenish
Next, multiply that number by 67%. For example, a 175 pound man would need to drink 117 ounces daily, to get the right amount.
Again, there are variables. If your activity level is on the high side, you should have more, if you’re breastfeeding, if you drink a lot of caffeine. Pay attention to your body, and do what it takes to make sure you get your water intake.
How to Drink More Water
Okay, so now we know why water is important, how to avoid overdoing it, and what actually is the right amount. But if drinking water is a chore for you, and you’re worried about getting it all in, there are a few tricks you can try.
Flavor it – You can use flavor packets, but they usually contain sugars or aspartame. You’re better off infusing with fruits, like fresh lemon slices, or berries, or even herbs like rosemary. Infusing water overnight adds a hint of flavor while making sure you get what you need. To even upgrade your water more, you can create your own detox water by adding cleansing ingredients.
Make it routine – Studies show you’re more likely to remember something if it’s part of an automatic routine. Build a habit of adding water to your existing routine, so you remember it. Build it into breakfast, drink a glass when you wake up… do what you need to do to make it an automatic process, and you won’t even need to remember.
Set an alarm or get an app – If you really can’t remember to drink enough water, there’s an app for that! Actually, there are several. Set an alarm on your phone, or choose an app with a reward system and notifications, so you’ll have no reason to tell yourself you “just forgot.”
Enjoy water-rich foods – If water really isn’t your thing, and you just can’t see yourself drinking enough day to day, try and get what you need from water-rich vegetables, like cucumber and zucchini, or fruit, like grapefruit or watermelon. They’re sure to be hydrating, and they’re also delicious!
We know we’re made up of mostly water, and we need water to stay healthy. Chronic dehydration can cause premature aging of the skin, teeth, and hair, intestinal problems, even dizziness and confusion. But too much water is dangerous too. It’s important to pay attention to your body and its needs.
And if you’re someone who can’t seem to remember to get your daily water intake, whether it’s eight glasses or ten or twelve, there are plenty of ways to remind yourself, from infusing with delicious fruits, to getting an app that reminds you to drink a glass right now or else. No matter how you do it, staying hydrated is important. So find the way that works best for you, to stay safe and healthy.