It shouldn’t come as a surprise that water is super important for our bodies. From our guts to our brains, it plays a vital part in keeping us healthy – we’re over 70 per cent made up of the stuff, after all. But the question of how much we should all be drinking every day is hotly debated, leading there to be a fair bit of confusion. How much is actually enough? How can we tell if we need more?
Here to calm the waters on the topic and provide some answers is dietician Nishta Saxena, who wants to get rid of some myths surrounding the fluid issue.
You need 8 cups of water a day
There is NO one answer to how much water you should be drinking. 8 cups is a myth! Body size, activity level, what temperature your environment is (hot outside, or air-conditioned), sweating patterns as well as pregnancy and lactation ALL affect how much you need. Take your diet into account, too; if you eat a lot of salt and processed foods, you need more water.
The following are estimates based on NIH and ACSM guidelines, but once again, all variable:
- Men: 15.5 cups daily
- Women: 11 cups daily (pregnant and lactating need more like 13 to 15 cups)
- Children 5 to 12: highly variable: from 8 to 10 cups
- Infants under 2 years: most should get what they need from breast milk and/or formula, so no water is needed between 6 months and 12 months. After 1 year, you can offer water to a child in a sippy cup, but be careful not to over hydrate and fill their little bellies with water instead of water-packed food and nutrient-dense fluids like milk or formula
You should only drink when you feel thirsty
A great barometer of how well hydrated you are is your pee – it should be a pale, straw yellow. If it is always completely clear, you could be over-hydrating slightly, and if a medium or dark yellow, this is a good sign you are dehydrated. A lot of people think the sensation of thirst alone will keep them hydrated, but NOT TRUE.
Mild dehydration reduces your mental activity
If you’re mildly dehydrated, you’ll experience…
- lower energy levels
- decreased physical coordination
- increased leg and calve cramps
- reduced your mental activity
Losing as LITTLE as 2 to 3 per cent of your total body water can cause physical and mental impairment. You can also have low blood pressure, UTI’s and kidney stones if you are chronically dehydrated. At moderate or severe levels, it is absolutely life-threatening, especially for kids and seniors.
When in doubt (on extra hot, active days), have water. Add a slice of watermelon sprinkled with sea salt for the most delicious rehydrating snack around!