For some it is easy, for many of us, drinking enough water can be challenging. We know we need water, but why and how much? Water makes up more than two-thirds of our body. It’s used to regulate temperature, lubricate joints, aide in metabolism, keep your eyes moist, and so much more.
How much is enough?
We’ve all heard about eight glasses of water a day. This can be a good measure for some people, but just like how everyone doesn’t need the same amount of protein, everyone doesn’t need the same amount of water. When estimating water needs in a clinical setting, I based water needs on body weight using this formula:
- (kg body weight – 20) x 15 + 1500 = ml fluid requirement
This can be a great base, but you may still need more if you’re working out and sweating, live in a hot climate, or don’t eat lot of fresh produce. So outside of the clinical setting, this calculation isn’t all that helpful. Instead of counting milliliters, I just like to use cues to see if I’m on track for my hydration. First, I pay attention to urine color. This may not be the most glamorous test, but it works. Drink enough so your urine is pale yellow, like a glass of lemonade. Also, if your urine has an odor, that can also be a sign of dehydration, so if it smells strong, drink up.
A couple of ways to make sure you get enough water is to carry a water bottle with you and drink throughout the day. I have found bottles with reuseable straws to be a game changer for me. I prefer sipping to gulping. Because your food provides about 20 percent of your total water intake, make sure to take advantage by filling up on water-loaded fruits and vegetables. Some of my favorites are watermelons, strawberries, spinach, and broccoli.
Drinking enough water is especially important when exercising, well actually, I should say before exercising. Since dehydration can lead to muscle fatigue, loss of coordination, decreased energy, decreased performance, and heat exhaustion or stroke, you definitely want to be well-hydrated when you start exercising. To dial in if you are drinking enough during your exercise, weigh yourself before, and then weight again right after your workout. This will give you a good idea of how much water you sweat off during your workouts. You’ll want to drink enough water to keep your weight the same. Even small changes like 1–2% body weight can start to have negative impacts on performance, and greater than 3% can lead to heat stroke.
To prevent this, drink water throughout the day and have at least eight ounces right before exercise. After exercise, aim to replace your fluids within two hours. If you remembered to weigh before and after, drink 20–24 fluid ounces of water or a sports beverage for every one pound lost. Be careful not to overdo it during long workouts. I recommend adding a sports drink with electrolytes for workouts over 60 minutes. Also avoid drinking more than one liter or quart per hour during exercise. This can help prevent overhydration which can be dangerous.
Bottom line, water is essential and shouldn’t be overlooked. Try to hydrate enough to maintain pale yellow urine and find ways that help you drink more if you struggle. That could be using ice to keep it cold, reusable bottles and straws, flavor enhancers like fresh fruit, or sparkling varieties. And because I get this question a lot, yes sparking water is just as hydrating as flat water, so if you like bubbles, go for it!