How much water do you really need?

If you're confused about how much water you really need, I'm not surprised. Conflicting advice in recent headlines appears to contradict the old '8-glasses-a-day' advice we all grew up with. Is it necessary to gulp down eight glasses of water daily, or is this recommendation exaggerated and out of date?

We've heard for years that eight glasses of water daily is the minimum necessary to keep healthy. Your weight loss and health depend on it. Drink the minimum and see clearer skin and sleep better, they said.

We're warned that dehydration can happen if we don't drink at least eight glasses of water per day. But, the tide has turned, away from liquid nutrition toward examining your daily diet, including what you eat, as well as what you drink.

The answer is:

If it's summer, you need more. If you're exercising, you need more.

The World Health Organization recommends that everyone drink a minimum of two litres of water daily, or about eight glasses(200 ml each.)

How important is water

Did you know that your entire body, chemistry and metabolic functions depend on getting adequate hydration? More than half the weight of the human body is water, which forms the basis of all body fluids, including digestive juices, blood, urine, lymph and perspiration. All cell processes and all organ functions depend upon water. Water is necessary for digestion, for elimination (and to prevent constipation) and for regulating your body temperature by distributing heat and cooling the body via perspiration.

With age, we need more water, because we become less sensitive to body losses and our sense of thirst diminishes. And clinical evidence shows that people with a history of kidney stones can lower their risk for recurrence by increasing their fluid intake.

Can you drink too much water?

It's very difficult to drink too much water, but it's possible. Excessive water consumption can result in hyponatraemia, a medical term for low sodium (salt) in the blood. Hyponatraemia's symptoms include extreme diarrhoea, headaches, confusion, weakness and sometimes personality changes. The most severe cases will result in seizures, respiratory arrest, coma and death.

However, drinking too much water, or water intoxication, is not common. Most people can handle at least eight glasses a day. Dr. David Katz, Associate Clinical Professor of Public Health and Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, says, "In general, healthy people cannot drink too much water. Normal kidneys can handle up to 12 litres per day".

How much do we really need? And where should I get it?

Here are my best tips for staying hydrated:

  1. How much water you need depends upon your weight, your activity and your climate. If it's hot, and you're exercising, you’ll need more water than when you're sitting at a computer all day.
  2. Fresh fruits and vegetables add fluid to your diet so you will benefit from them. Lettuce is 97 to 98% water and is watermelon. Other good fluid sources include carrots, (88 percent water), fresh tomatoes (93 percent water), and fresh celery (94 percent water).
  3. Since cooking vegetables decreases the fluid content, eat a big, fresh salad every day, and at least four servings each of fruit and other vegetables.
  4. Water is the best fluid you can drink. It has no calories, additives or preservatives. I drink tap water because my county council produces a high quality product at an inexpensive price. In fact, regulations on tap water are more stringent than those on bottled water, and the average bottle of water usually costs more than a litre of petrol or milk.
  5. In terms of weight loss, drinking water will not cause you to lose weight, but use water as a strategy or tool to help when you’re on a programme to lose weight. Drinking water between meals can help curb your appetite, as will snacking on water-filled fresh vegetables and fruit.
  6. To prevent dehydration, remember these simple guidleines:
    • Drink water before, during and after exercise
    • Drink water every 20 minutes or so when engaged in strenuous physical activity
    • Do not take salt tablets
    • Stop working out at the first sign of dizziness, lightheadedness, or fatigue

So remember, keep a bottle of water with you at all times.

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