Do I really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
How can I tell if I need to drink more water?
Can I drink too much water?
These are just a few of the questions my clients will ask when they begin their journey toward eating and living healthier. You may have these same questions when it comes to drinking more water during the day.
Why do we find it so hard to drink more water?
Before I began transforming my health, I never drank water during the day. I would guzzle a glass right before I went to bed and that was about it. I truly could not stand to drink water; it ranked with drinking milk – which I never drink.
Yet, I knew that water is essential for life. You can only survive a few days without it. And being hydrated is essential for health. I knew that water is the most essential nutrient of them all. Water is needed for every cell and function in your body.
Drinking more water was a big challenge for me, but I finally succeeded and now drink over 60 ounces of water a day. Drinking more water was a process for me and it may be one you’re struggling with too.
Did you know that water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion? It also helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat; helps to regulate your body temperature and aids in maintaining your electrolyte (mineral) balance. And that’s just a few of its roles.
Did you read my post on “Brain Fog”? Did you know that dehydration can impair mood and concentration and contribute to headaches and dizziness? Classic symptoms of brain fog. Dehydration can reduce your physical endurance and increase the risk for kidney stones and constipation. Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke.
So, water is critical for life and health.
As I mentioned earlier, one question I’m often asked is if we can drink too much water? The answer is a resounding “Yes” As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balance to be reached.
Too little or too much – how do you decide how much water to drink each day?
Is there a magic number for everyone?
What counts toward water intake?
Here’s how I help my clients decide….
First, how much water do I need?
Think about today – how much water have you actually drank today?
When I first begin meeting with clients, we discover that they’re not drinking enough water to keep them healthy.
These are just a few symptoms you may have if you’re not drinking enough water daily:
- Trouble Concentrating
- Mood Swings
- Stomach Pains
- Craving Sweet or Salty Foods
Look at that list again, many times we’ll have these symptoms and never think that they’re due to a lack of water. My biggest craving was for salty foods and I would have never connected that craving with a lack of water. In fact, you may be treating some of these symptoms without experiencing success because you’re not drinking enough water.
My goal when meeting with a client is to get a clear understanding of their daily habits. Then we begin to look at the various symptoms they have to determine how to begin a healthy plan of action.
This plan of action always includes drinking enough water. Once upon a time, there was a magic number called “8×8.” This was the recommendation to drink eight-8 oz glasses of water every day; which is about 2 liters of water. Have you tried this plan? This was what I tried over and over again. I would set a glass of water on my desk and set the timer for an hour. When the timer would go off, I would guzzle the glass of water. Needless to say – I never did conquer the 8×8 plan.
Now we’ve realized that imposing this external “one size fits all” rule may not be the best approach. Many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst. You don’t need to go overboard forcing down glasses of water when you’re not thirsty. Just pay attention to your thirst mechanism. We have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are. And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable.
Besides thirst, pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker. You want your urine to be a very light yellow – not clear. This is the test I use with many of my clients. I’ll ask them to pay attention to the color of their urine and then advise them whether they need to increase or decrease their water intake.
There are a few other things to consider when evaluating your hydration status. If you’re sweating a lot or are in a hot/humid climate, you’ll need to drink more. Breastfeeding moms, elderly people, and people at risk of kidney stones need to drink more water too.
My clients are not “cookie-cutter” clients and neither are you. So, ditch the “one size fits all” external rule for drinking enough water, and pay more attention to your body’s subtle cues for water.
What counts toward my water intake?
This is a common question I get from clients.
My answer: “All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs.”
Water is usually the best choice. If you’re not drinking pure water, consider the effects that the other ingredients have on your body. Drinks containing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will have effects besides hydration. Sugar can mess with your blood sugar balance. Alcohol can make you feel “buzzed.” And caffeine can keep you awake.
Let’s talk a bit more about caffeine for a second.
We’ve heard for years that caffeine is the infamous “dehydrator,” right?
Well, not so much. If you take high dose caffeine pills, then sure, they cause fluid loss. But the idea that coffee and tea don’t count toward your water intake is an old myth. While caffeine may make you have to go to the bathroom more, that effect isn’t strong enough to negate the hydrating effects of its water. Plus, if you’re tolerant to it (i.e., regularly drink it) then the effect is even smaller. So, you don’t need to counteract your daily cup(s) of coffee and/or tea.
Also, many foods contain significant amounts of water. Especially fruits and vegetables like cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water, so they’re good sources of hydration.
Put variety into your day and let all healthy fluids and foods with water count toward your daily water intake.
How much water should you drink each day?
There is no magic number of the amount of water you need. Everyone is different. What’s important for you to do, is to pay attention to your thirst. Other signs you need more water are dark urine, sweating, constipation, and kidney stones.
Let me know in the comments: What’s your favorite way to hydrate?
Recipe: Tasty Hydrating Teas
You may not love the taste (or lack thereof) of plain water. One thing you can do is add some sliced or frozen fruit to your water. Since we learned that you could hydrate just as well with other water-containing beverages, here are some of my favorite herbal teas you can drink hot or cold.
- Lemon Balm
- Rose Hips
- Lemon Verbena
Hot tea – Place tea bags in a pot (1 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey and slice of lemon, if desired. Serve.
Iced tea – Place tea bags in a pot (2 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey, if desired. Chill. Add ice to a glass and fill with cold tea.
Tip: Freeze berries in your ice cubes to make your iced tea more beautiful and nutritious.
Serve & enjoy!
I enjoy making a pitcher of fruit infused water to have on hand during the week. Grab my Fall Fruit Infusion Guide and become inspired.