Don’t wait ’til you’re thirsty- A guide for water intake

The Question

How much water should I be drinking each day? This is a common question and one that obviously needs an answer. After all, we need water to survive. However, it seems that few people can arrive at a consistent guideline.

The truth is the amount of water we need depends on a number of factors, such as diet, weight, daily activity, and even location. So while each of us may arrive at a different answer, my hope is to provide an accurate estimate of how much water you and I need to drink everyday.

The Benefits

Water makes up roughly 60% of our body weight and every system of the body depends on it in order to function. For example:
– Water is the vehicle by which our body gets rid of harmful toxins
– Water carries to the cells the nutrients they so desperately need
– Water provides the proper environment and moisture for the various tissues in our ears, nose and throat
– On the other hand, dehydration (i.e. not enough water) will lead to fatigue and less than ideal functioning

The Dilemma

Everyday we lose water through breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom, all of which happen throughout each day. (If you can hold your breath all day, please come see me). In order to function properly, we need to replace these fluids on a regular basis. But how much do we need to replace? For many years the commonly accepted intake has been 8 glasses of water per day. And while this is not a bad suggestion, it is probably a bit on the low side. In order to get a better idea, we need to consider a few factors:

The Variables

ACTIVITY: If you are reading this article you are most likely either a frequent visitor here at State of Fitness or are hoping to be (hint). In that case, you need to consider the fact that you are losing more water as you exercise. For short bouts of exercise (1 hour or less) it is recommended that you drink an additional 20 ounces of water. For anything longer, or perhaps just more strenuous, you need to consider how much you are actually sweating and drink accordingly. Let me clarify, the standard by which to measure fluid loss is not “time spent exercising” but rather “energy exerted” (breathing and sweating).

CLIMATE/SEASON: As we appear to be entering a beautiful spring season (knock on wood), temperatures will begin to rise and we will start to sweat more. This also necessitates an increase in fluid replacement, even in the absence of strenuous activity. Also, anyone visiting hot and dry climates (Arizona, California) must be aware that sweat will evaporate almost immediately and not necessarily leave any signals for water intake.

OTHER: A good rule of thumb is to increase water intake anytime there is fluid loss. Sickness often leads to excess sweating, coughing or even vomiting, which necessitates water replacement. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding need to increase water intake as well.

Summary

In general, the bigger you are the more water you need. For this reason, most men need to consume a baseline of 100 ounces of water per day, while the average woman needs around 80 ounces of water each day. A safe rule we have often used at State of Fitness is to take your body weight and divide it in half. This is your baseline number of ounces per day. On top of that, consider how much exercise you are involved in, and how much you are sweating throughout the day.

For example: A 150 lb individual would need to drink 75 oz. of water each day and 20+ oz. per hour of exercise.

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