The importance of drinking enough water has been widely documented. Our body is composed of 60% water and due to normal bodily functioning and exercise, we are constantly losing water that needs to be replenished. The human body can only survive a few days in the absence of water. We all know the basic components of hydration, but do we know the importance of proper hydration: how much water should I drink?

The commonly quoted recommended intake is 8 glasses of water per day (or the 8 x 8 rule) is often challenged, where did this value even come from? Is it even an accurate rule or just an arbitrary number? How about tea and coffee – do these contribute to water intake? Also, can you drink water to lose weight? Before we resort to our historical bro-science knowledge to demystify these queries, let’s see what the research says.

Water, hydration, mineral

Importance of hydration – health

Water is considered a miracle nutrient that aids in general health and well-being. Adequate hydration promotes healthy functioning of organs, especially the kidneys; dermatologists and skin care professionals constantly advocate the importance of hydration for skin. Hypohydration is linked with many adverse effects, including a decline in mental performance, increased risk of chronic diseases such as hyperglycemia – diabetes, heart disease and strokes. It can also lead to confusion as the body feels hunger when in fact the body is thirsty.

Benefits of proper hydration include:

  • Helps produce saliva
  • Assists in digestion of food
  • Assists in weight loss
  • Aids in regulating food cravings
  • Prevents constipation
  • Helps boost energy levels
  • Helps improve mood

Importance of hydration – exercise

Proper hydration is a fundamental requirement to achieving peak performance during a workout. During exercise, fluid is lost through the processes of sweating, excretion and breathing. Generally, athletes underestimate their fluid loss and so fail to adequately rehydrate during exercise to replenish lost fluids. Even minimal dehydration is linked to reduced performance. It can affect power, strength and endurance.

Mental and physical decline have also been documented as adverse effects of suboptimal hydration. Research has demonstrated that a reduction in water (equivalent to 2% body weight) exerts increased pressure on the heart and exacerbates how difficult a workout feels, particularly during activities in hot environments. Depending on intensity, climate and personal factors, water loss during exercise can range anywhere from 750ml – 2L per hour. Dehydration is something which the body can never be trained to acclimatise to and so efforts should be taken to replenish lost fluids; for some athletes, this means replenishing lost electrolytes too. Rehydrating during exercise helps prevent the risk of heat stress, performance decline and fatigue.

Am I drinking enough water?

Achieving the correct balance of drinking enough water can be difficult to conquer. The effects of not drinking enough water are evident from the previous paragraphs. However, the signs you’re not drinking enough water can be somewhat difficult to pinpoint as they could be attributed to other factors. Some of the signs of dehydration in adults and children include:

  • Dark coloured urine
  • Feelings of thirst
  • Feelings of hunger
  • Less frequent urination, <4 times per day
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Unfortunately, merely prescribing an 8 glasses of water per day quota is not an accurate representation of what each individual needs to adequately hydrate.

Water bottle, hydration, liquid

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identified the below as adequate daily fluid intake targets:

Men: About 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) of fluids

Women: About 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) of fluids

However, each individual has personal and environmental considerations which can alter their requirements. These include:

  • Body size
  • Composition
  • Personal sweat rate
  • Personal health conditions, e.g. diarrhoea/constipation
  • Work activity level
  • Exercise duration and intensity
  • Environmental temperature
  • Breastfeeding

Worker, sweat, hydration, water

Ok, so you’re thinking that still hasn’t answered your question? Let me offer you two simple methods of estimating hydration levels, both of which have no cost and are simple to interpret!

1. Thirst

Our bodies are primed with various organs and systems to enable survival. As such, since water is such a fundamental requirement to live and since it constitutes such a huge proportion of our body, it makes sense that each person is fitted with a regulator to aid in maintaining water balance. The simple rule is that if you feel thirsty, drink (preferably water) until your don’t feel thirsty anymore.

2. Urine colour

The colour of your urine can help determine if you’re consuming sufficient fluids. You should aim to have light yellow or clear urine. The more concentrated the colour, the more dehydrated you’re likely to be. If it’s a dark colour, you probably need to drink up!

Warning: Caveat – proceed with caution!

While thirst is an indicator that you may need to consume fluid, relying solely on thirst can be a poor indicator of when liquid should be replenished. Thirst regulation can be affected as people age, so elderly people may need to remind themselves to rehydrate. Additionally, athletes and personnel engaging in strenuous work/exercise and sweat may need to replenish lost fluids sooner.

Drinking water before, during and after exercise helps

ensure optimal hydration levels are maintained

All this being said, it’s worth considering that hyperhydration is also the other end of the spectrum and is linked with adverse effects. Want me to do an article on excess water consumption or other fluid-related topics? Comment below!

Do other drinks count towards water intake?

Contrary to popular belief and misleading information, caffeinated drinks and even some beers may count towards your daily water intake. That said, a diet composed primarily of fizzy drinks, alcohol and caffeinated beverages isn’t recommended. Water should be the fluid of choice before opting for teas and coffees. In addition to these, many foods also contain water, e.g. watermelon, tomatoes, apples, broccoli all contain upwards of 80% natural water content. Other foods that also contribute to water intake include meat, fish and eggs. So before you go chugging gallons of water on top of you copious cups of tea, take into consideration the different foods and drinks consumed throughout the day that can add to your daily water targets.

So now you know how to hydrate your body optimally, why not learn how to eat healthily too and find out the Top 5 healthy & unhealthy eating habits – are you guilty of them?

Coffee, hydration, cup, drink, beverage

Summary

  • Fluid intake differs between individuals, there is no single formula for recommended daily water intake.
  • The 8 x 8 rule may be a good target to aim for, but it’s not necessarily an accurate reflection of water intake requirements.
  • Urine colour and thirst levels are good indicators of hydration levels.
  • Drink when you’re thirsty, stop drinking when your thirst is quenched.
  • If you’re sweating a lot, or working in a hot area, extra efforts should be taken to rehydrate frequently.
  • Besides water, caffeinated drinks and food also contribute to daily hydration and should be accounted for.
  • While caffeinated drinks do contribute to total water intake, aim to make water your go-to drink.

What are you still doing here? Go grab some water!

Sources

Bodybuilding.com. (2019). How Much Water Should I Drink?. [online] Available at: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/water_calculator.htm [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Healthline. (2020). How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day#section5 [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Healthline. (2020). Why Is Water Important? 16 Reasons to Drink Up. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/why-is-water-important#saliva [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Lappalainen R, e. (1993). Drinking water with a meal: a simple method of coping with feelings of hunger, satiety and desire to eat. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8287852 [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Matthews, M. (2016). How Much Water Should I Drink? A Simple & Science-Based Answer – Legion Athletics. [online] Legion Athletics. Available at: https://legionathletics.com/how-much-water-should-i-drink/ [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Mayo Clinic. (2019). Dehydration – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086 [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Medical News Today. (2020). How much water should I drink each day?. [online] Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306638.php#recommended-daily-water-intake- [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Sportsdietitians.com.au. (2009). [online] Available at: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Fluids-in-sport.pdf [Accessed 28 Jan. 2020].

Valtin, H. (2002). “Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.” Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 × 8”?. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 283(5), pp.R993-R1004.

Categories: Blogs

22 Comments

  • Rebecca Grant · 31/01/2020 at 9:58 PM

    This is a great post. I didn’t know other beverages could count toward fluid intake. I mostly drink water, but I do enjoy a couple of cups of coffee a day 🙂 I like how you’ve clarified that 8 glasses of water today is somewhat arbitrary and the best amount of water varies from person to person and situation to situation. I first learned to look at the color of my urine in my 30’s when we hiked the Inca Trail. I wish I’d learned that technique earlier. I now teach my kids to check the color of their pee. I think its important to know. Thanks for sharing this message with others.

      Sharon · 01/02/2020 at 8:05 AM

      Thanks Rebecca, yes it’s true, just like calories count on weekends!

    Michele · 06/02/2020 at 4:34 AM

    Ironically, my husband had just asked me if I think I drank enough water today. I drank mostly water but didn’t think I drank enough until I read your article. I do check urine levels to make sure and I seem to be drinking plenty. I just thought it had to at least 6-8 glasses.

    Until now, I had never heard of hypohydration – only dehydration and hydration. I had heard that many fruit, veggies and drinks like tea or juices can count as water a little because of the water they contain but not sodas. Thank you for clarifying that. I learned a lot from reading your article. It was very insightful!

      Sharon · 06/02/2020 at 9:21 PM

      Hi There,

      Great to hear the post was of value to you. It’s good to hear you’re keeping an eye on your hydration levels – such an important factor in maintaining a healthy life! Hypohydration and hyperhydration are less commonly heard phrases but certainly do have an impact on the overall performance of your mind and body. Keep an eye out for a post shortly on the imapct of hyperhydration!
      Sharon

    Alex · 02/04/2020 at 5:06 PM

    Sometimes when I drink coffee my urine becomes clearer, now I know why. I always wondered if it ACTUALLY hydrated you, or if something just made it seem that way. Thank you!

      Sharon · 02/04/2020 at 7:24 PM

      Hi Alex,

      There are a lot of rumours in terms of caffeine drinks being dehydrating, so I’m glad this post has set you straight. You can drink it now and feel healthier knowing you’re hydrating your body.

      Sharon

    umar · 02/04/2020 at 5:57 PM

    Water goes a long way, beyond the obvious physical vitality. It’s amazing how water can improve your energy levels and just increase your general mood throughout the day. I always try to keep a bottle of water around me just to remind me. Otherwise, hours can go by and I completely forget to drink anything. Thanks for this.

      Sharon · 02/04/2020 at 7:25 PM

      Great technique, it’s good to just keep sipping away on it as opposed to having to force yourself to drink a 1L in a short time period. Keep up the good work and your body and mind will thank you for it!

      Sharon

    Henry · 03/04/2020 at 5:46 PM

    Hi Sharon,

    We all know water is important for our general health but most of us are not concerned about our daily intake. Being stuck at home and having a fridge full of food is a blessing but equally blessed we must feel of having clean water for our consumption.
    A person could spend more days without eating that he could spend without drinking water.
    My main takeaway from your article is to drink water even though we don’t feel thirsty.
    Thank you very much for this post.

      Sharon · 03/04/2020 at 7:52 PM

      Hi Henry,

      Good to hear you’ve taken some of the golden rules from this article. People often don’t realise what constitutes adequate hydration, I frequently see people who would go through the day on 2-3 cups of tea during the day and maybe the odd sip of water.

      Good luck with keeping hydrated!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Bob · 03/04/2020 at 6:14 PM

    I’ve always thought that all fluids should be counted toward water consumption. The body has to do something with coffee and caffeinated beverages whether it expels it without using it in digestion or in sweat.
    So, how much water should you take before exercising?
    How much time does it take for the body to process the water?

      Sharon · 03/04/2020 at 8:02 PM

      Hi Bob,

      That’s a personal preference in one sense. But there are some points to consider – you shouldn’t commence exercise while feeling dehydrated; additionally, you don’t want to drink so much that you’ll be interrupting your exercise by needing to go to the bathroom during it. Also, consuming too much liquid may leave you feeling full, so bear that in mind too. Personally, if I drink too much, I struggle with core workouts. On average, it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours for water to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

      Hope this answers your queries,
      Sharon

    donat · 03/04/2020 at 6:43 PM

    What a great resource! Thanks for the well documented article and the great reminders about staying hydrated.

      Sharon · 03/04/2020 at 8:05 PM

      Thank you so much, I hope you take a few tips on board!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Md · 03/04/2020 at 7:19 PM

    One of the simplest and best article regarding hydration I’ve come across, really loved the 8×8 rule in particular.
    content structure, explanation, summary and sources are on point.

      Sharon · 03/04/2020 at 8:09 PM

      Hi there,

      Thank you so much, I aim to keep it simple and to the point. I hope you have learned a few tips from this post!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Heidi · 03/04/2020 at 8:15 PM

    It’s true, water is SO important! I found myself reaching for my water bottle as I read your article. Growing up, water was the answer my mom gave for almost everything. You don’t feel good? Drink more water. Do you have a headache? Drink more water.

    I agree, the daily fluid intake is a hard thing to generalize for everyone. We all have such different body types! Another measurement I have heard is to drink the equivalent of half your weight in ounces. ie. if you weigh 160 lbs your daily fluid goal would be 80 ounces.

    Have you heard of that? Do you feel like it holds any stock?

      Sharon · 03/04/2020 at 8:27 PM

      Hi Heidi,

      Great, the article started taking effect immediately so! I was reaching for my tea while writing the article! That’s certainly a good starting point, at least you can rule out dehydration/emotional eating if you chug some water.

      I have seen it publicised by some universities and a couple of nutritionists, so there is some encouragement in knowing that. It’s really whatever you feel works best for you. If you follow a calculation but feel bloated most of the time, it might not suit. On the contrary, you might find this technique works, you can always check it against your thirst levels and the colour of your urine.

      Hope this answers your query.

      Sharon

    Heidi · 03/04/2020 at 9:30 PM

    That does answer my question, thank you! I think you are right though, it’s most important to keep watching things like your thirst and urine and follow your body’s directions rather than push for a specific amount that could also be too little or too much.

      Sharon · 04/04/2020 at 8:55 PM

      I’m glad to hear it.

      Yes, that would be my personal preference anyway. It’s often best as you say to listen to your body!

      If you’ve anymore questions, please do send them my way!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Johan · 04/04/2020 at 3:51 AM

    Water is the drink of choice for me and at the moment, the only other drinks are protein shakes. Gone off juices, energy drinks and even alcohol, though I’m sure I’ll bring back some alcohol in the future.

    The issue I have is when I’m exercising – the balance of getting enough water versus too much that it gives me a stitch. During training is okay, I just have sips every now and then.

    It’s more when I am playing sports, sometimes I’ll go the whole half without a drink of water. So when half time comes, and I’m feeling thirsty, I need to make sure I don’t go crazy with the water intake.

      Sharon · 04/04/2020 at 8:59 PM

      Hi Johan,

      You’re on the right track by the sounds of it! That sounds to be a tricky situation, especially if it’s the case that you haven’t full control of your access to water and you’re relying on a water boy. If it was possible to leave a bottle on the sideline near where your position on the field is, it might make it easier to access it if there’s a period in the game when the action isn’t in your area.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

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