Let me start by saying I’m not generally a thirsty person. I realize it’s summer and it’s hot. But this is someone who doesn’t want to spend her day running run back and forth to the bathroom.
I know, a poor excuse for not drinking. Water is crucial to our good health. After all, every system in our bodies relies on water. It makes up about 60 percent of our body weight. It helps flush out toxins. And people say it’s good for your skin, too.
What’s more, dehydration can be pretty serious business. Don’t drink enough, and you could end up with some terrible problems. Low fluid intake can reduce blood pressure and the amount of blood flowing to your organs, decreasing the oxygen and nutrients they receive and reducing the amount of waste removed. Dehydration can also lead to kidney failure, seizures, swelling of the brain, and even death.
The bathroom’s starting to look better and better.
So how much water should we drink? I did a little research and here’s what I learned:
• Although the Institute of Medicine suggests men get about 125 ounces of water per day and women about 90 ounces, this isn’t necessarily set in stone. We get water from lots of sources: other liquids, fruit, and vegetables. In fact, the IOM says we get 20% of the liquid we need each day from food. The problem is we don’t always eat the sort of things that provide the fluid we need. That’s why we need to drink.
• Pay attention to your body. It’ll tell you when you need water. Thirst doesn’t mean you’re in dire straits, but it is an indicator that you should probably drink something. Believe it or not, your urine is a much better way to tell whether or not you need fluids. You should pee a significant amount regularly 3 or 4 times throughout the day. If you’re drinking enough water, your urine should be pale yellow or clear (though certain foods or vitamins can affect the color, too). Symptoms of dehydration include thirst (obviously), as well as headache, dizziness, cramping, tiredness, constipation, dry skin, low urine output, and dry, sticky mouth. So watch yourself.
• If it’s hot or if you’re exercising, drink more. That’s because you lose liquid through evaporative cooling (i.e. sweating). It’s a good idea to drink to make up for the loss.
• Drink before you exercise, too. You lose a lot of liquid when you sweat, so you need to replenish. And when you exercise, you need about a bottle of water per hour, or about 16 to 24 ounces.
• No, alcohol, coffee, and tea are not good sources of hydration. In fact, these are actually diuretics, which means they can actually cause you to lose fluid rather than retain fluid. So if you’re thinking these count, they don’t. And though you’ll get water from any fluid you drink, water all by itself is probably better because it doesn’t have any calories or sugar.
I think I need to stop now. I’m starting to get thirsty.