In this post, I am going to be discussing everything you need to know about water. From why it is important to how much you need daily.
So Why Is It So Important?
Everyone knows that you need food and water to survive. But really, why is water important? Did you know that you can survive several weeks without food but only several days without water? This is mostly because our body has no way of storing water for long term use like it can with nutrients from food. It is also essential for so many of our bodily processes.
All of the cells in our bodies contain and are surround by water. Below is a list of some of the key functions it performs in our body.
1. Helps to maintain blood volume/blood pressure
2. Helps to transport nutrients from food throughout the body
3. Helps to transport oxygen throughout the body
4. Forms saliva, bile, and amniotic fluid (Saliva and bile both help break down food)
5. Forms lubricants in the body
6. Protects joints
7. Helps in metabolic/chemical reactions in the body
8. Required to regulate body temperature
9. Required for waste removal from the body
After reading through that list, it’s easy to see why water is so important and essential to our survival and health.
So What Happens If I Don’t Drink Enough Water?
Dehydration is when fluid intake does not match fluid loss. It can occur when we don’t consume enough water or can happen while having diarrhea and/or vomiting, fever, intense exercise, hot weather, dry environments, high altitudes.
Signs of mild to moderate dehydration include thirst, dry mouth/skin, fatigue, muscle weakness, decrease urine output, dark yellow urine, headache and dizziness.
As dehydration progresses it causes lower blood pressure and increased heart rate. Symptoms can include muscle cramps, mental confusion, labored breathing, faintness. Eventually kidney failure and even death can occur.
Is It Possible to Drink too Much Water?
Most people are not aware that this can actually happen and that’s probably because it is a rare occurrence. When someone drinks too much water it is referred to as water intoxication. Basically, it can throw off your body’s electrolyte balance. Water intoxication can include/cause headaches, blurred vision, muscle cramps, and rarely death.
One population of people that may want to consider this are marathon runners. Runners are typically excreting electrolytes during their run and then if they consume excess water without replacing the electrolytes then it can also create this electrolyte imbalance. A simple solution is to drink a sports drink that also contains electrolytes.
So How Much Water Should I Drink?
Fluid needs vary from person to person based on body size, physical activity, environmental conditions, food intake, and certain medical conditions such as pregnancy or kidney disease. Despite this variability, a fluid needs guideline has been established to help people try to make sure they stay hydrated.
Total fluid recommendations for women are about 2.7 liters (91 ounces) daily and for men it is about 3.7 liters (125 ounces) daily. These numbers are for total fluid from food and drinks. We get about 20% of our fluid from food. So if you do the math then that leaves about 69 ounces for women and 95 ounces for men of fluid needs to be consumed daily. These fluids can include sources such as milk, juice, coffee, tea.
So typically the recommendation for the general healthy population is to drink 8 cups of water daily. This is approximately 64 ounces. Doing so should help most people meet their daily fluid needs when combined with food and other drinks.
As I previously mentioned, there are certain health conditions that may impact your fluid needs such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, obesity or kidney disease.
So What’s the Deal With All of These “Fancy” Waters?
I recently had a dear friend ask what the deal is with carbonated, infused, flavored/fancy water. She was interested to know if it was any healthier and why it was so trendy. Honestly, it is easy to understand why one might think that it is healthier. I mean have you seen the water section at the grocery store lately?
The short answer is “fancy” water is no better or worse than regular plain water.
The reason carbonated or flavored water is so trendy is because many Americans despise drinking plain water. But we also know we have to drink it to survive and that it is a healthier choice then soda or juice. Soda and juice are fine in moderation, but you probably shouldn’t be drinking 64 ounces of either on a daily basis.
Some people also just really love carbonated beverages. And hey, if carbonated water brings them joy and makes their day better then that’s great!
Water infused with fruit could be a slightly better option than plain water if it helps you to eat more fruit in your diet. If you have no issues with eating enough fruit daily then ordinary plain water is just fine.
So What Now?
If you have any concerns, speak with your doctor or dietitian regarding your individual fluid needs. A dietitian can work with you to figure out exactly how much fluid you need.
If you need help finding a dietitian near you then you can go to this website and search for one. Most hospitals also have on staff dietitians that do outpatient counseling. Just call your local hospital and ask!
Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2019). Wardlaws perspectives in nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. 8th edition