We all know the importance of staying hydrated, especially in the hot summer months, during exercise or when we are sick. Conflicting information from friends, family and on the internet regarding how much water we need to drink each day can be overwhelming and confusing. Why is hydration so important?
Water is critical for our body to function properly. Every cell, organ and chemical process in our body requires water. Blood, for example, is a liquid and without the proper amount of water, it becomes thick making the heart work harder to push it through our body. Water also keeps us warm or cools us off through the process of sweating. Healthy kidneys require water to help flush toxins out of our body.
An adult human is composed of about 60% water. Muscle tissue contains more water than fat. Because women generally have more fat, their body water content is closer to 55%. The amount of water in our body decreases with age. New born babies are 75% water and by the time we reach the age of 65, our bodies hold only 50% water thanks to the loss of muscle and gain of fat tissue.
So, how much water should we be drinking? Unfortunately, the recommendation of 8 cups per day (64 oz) is not supported by scientific evidence. Instead, fluid needs should be individualized taking into account several factors including age, illness or disease state, medications, exercise, temperature, pregnancy and lactation.
Using thirst to guide fluid intake is less reliable as we age. To determine if you are well hydrated, monitor how frequently you are urinating and the color of the urine. Heading to the bathroom every 2-4 hours is a sign of adequate hydration along with a light yellow color of urine. For an average healthy adult at room temperature performing usual daily activities, this would be a daily water or beverage intake of approximately 1.5-1.8 L for women and 2.0-2.6 L for men. Fluid needs may increase depending upon the factors listed above. Headaches, fatigue, confusion, dry mouth, dark urine and infrequent urination are signs of dehydration that shouldn’t be ignored.
In addition to plain water, soups, broth, tea, coffee, milk, smoothies, puddings and ice cream are sources of fluids that count toward daily intake. Juicy fruits like oranges, berries and watermelon are good food sources of water. Consuming fluids throughout the day helps the body to function at its best.
Drinking enough fluids can be difficult for some people. While sweetened sodas, teas and juices are fluids, the extra sugar will contribute to weight gain and can have other negative health effects. Water is best but often tastes bland to people who are used to consuming sugary drinks. Adding flavorful fruits and/or vegetables to your water bottle (aka, “Infused” water or “Spa” water) may be just the trick you need to keep hydrated. Try these combinations and visit the website listed below for more ideas.
Wash fruits and vegetables well before adding to the water. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight. Health tip: When done with the water, use the fruit in a smoothie or in baked goods so valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber aren’t wasted.
- Cucumber and mint or pineapple and mint
- Blueberries and orange slices
- Watermelon and basil or pineapple and basil
- Strawberries and lemon
- Cherries and lime
- Grapefruit and raspberries
- Mango and pineapple
- Grapes and orange slices
Infused water combinations courtesy of Wellness Mama.10 refreshing infused water recipes (with fruit and herbs!) https://wellnessmama.com/3607/herb-fruit-infused-water/
Photo Credit: Ayana putri https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Penyajian_Infused_Water.jpg
Guidelines for drinking fluids to stay hydrated. 2014
Born wet, babies are 75% water. Then comes the drying. 2013.
Water intake: validity of population assessment and recommendations. 2015. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-015-0944-8
Symptoms and signs of dehydration in adults. 2018. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/dehydration_in_adults/article_em.htm#symptoms_and_signs_of_dehydration_in_adults
The quest for hydration. 2005. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/quest-for-hydration#2