Hydration & Water
We have all heard it before: Drink more water
! Water plays an essential role in your health and is essential for our bodies. Water is in every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. It is a fundamental part of our existence and how our body functions. Getting enough water every day is important for our health.
A lack of water can lead to dehydration. Dehydration
is a condition that occurs when you don't have enough water in your body to properly carry out the body's normal functions. Dehydration can also make you feel tired and drain your energy.
Typically, many of us can meet our fluid needs by drinking when thirsty and drinking fluids with meals. However, if you are outside in hot weather for most of the day or doing vigorous physical activity, you'll need to make an effort to drink more fluids.
How much water do I need?
First and foremost, if you feel you are not getting a proper amount of fluid, or feel you are dehydrated, you need to check with your physician. They should be able to make recommendations for your condition.
There are generally accepted "rules of thumb" for the amount of water a person needs and ways to easily remind ourselves of what we should drink daily. Here are a few ideas:
- The "8 glasses of 8 ounces of water a day", or 8 X 8 rule. This is almost 2 liters (or 6/10 of a gallon) of water a day. This is not a scientifically proven fact, but it is a good measure to follow.
- The Dietary Recommendations from The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.
- Normal body function (on average) cause an adult to loose about 10.3 cups of fluid/water a day. This needs to be replaced. 10.3 cups of fluid is approximately 82 ounces of water.
For most of us, our water needs are met through the water and beverages we drink. You can also get some fluid through the foods you eat. For example, broth soups and other foods that are 85% to 95% water such as celery, tomatoes, oranges, and melons.
What does water do in my body?
Water helps your body with the following:
- Keeps its temperature normal.
- Lubricates and cushions your joints.
- Protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues.
- Gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements.
Why do I need to drink enough water each day?
You need water to replace what your body loses through normal everyday functions. Of course, you lose water when you go to the bathroom or sweat, but you even lose small amounts of water when you exhale. You need to replace this lost water to prevent dehydration.
Your body also needs more water when you are—
- In hot climates.
- More physically active.
- Running a fever.
- Having diarrhea or vomiting.
To help you stay hydrated during prolonged physical activity or when it is hot outside, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend these two steps:
- Drink fluid while doing the activity.
- Drink several glasses of water or other fluid after the physical activity is completed.1
Also, when you are participating in vigorous physical activity, it's important to drink before you even feel thirsty. Thirst is a signal that your body is on the way to dehydration.
Some people may have fluid restrictions because of a health problem, such as kidney disease. If your healthcare provider has told you to restrict your fluid intake, be sure to follow that advice and always seek the advice of a healthcare professional before starting any exercise program.
Tips for Increasing Your Fluid Intake by Drinking More Water
Under normal conditions, most people can drink enough fluids to meet their water needs. If you are outside in hot weather for most of the day or doing vigorous activity, you may need to increase your fluid intake.
If you think you're not getting enough water each day, the following tips may help:
- Carry a water bottle for easy access when you are at work, in the car, on family trips, working in the yard, or running errands.
- Freeze some freezer-safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
- Limit soft drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks. Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. This tip can also help with weight management. Substituting water for one 20-ounce sugar-sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories.
- Limit your caffeine at conferences.
- Pass out water bottles at conferences, faith-based gatherings and during sporting events.
- Choose water instead of other beverages when eating out. Generally, you will save money and reduce calories.
- Give your water a little pizazz by adding a wedge of lime or lemon. This may improve the taste, and you just might drink more water than you usually do.
Although beverages that are sweetened with sugars do provide water, they usually have more calories than unsweetened beverages. To help with weight control, you should consume beverages and foods that don't have added sugars.
Examples of beverages with added sugars:
- Fruit drinks.
- Some sports drinks.
- Soft drinks and sodas (non-diet).
Visit for more information about the calories in beverages and how you can make better drink choices to reduce your calorie intake.
1HHS & USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. Chapter 2: Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs. Accessed online May 24, 2007: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/chapter2.htm
U.S. National Library of Medicine & NIH. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Water in Diet. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002471.html