Remember when your mother told you that drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day was the way to keep your body hydrated? I hate to tell you this, but your mother was wrong. (Just this once!)
The Hydration Myth
The hydration myth– that idea that drinking 64 ounces of water daily is the standard for good hydration and health– is one that nearly everyone is familiar with. Like most things related to health, though, the reality is that individuals require different amounts of water and other liquids to be hydrated. And there are several factors at play in addition to the obvious one of how much water is consumed.
Why is hydration important?
Our bodies require water to survive. From cellular processes to keeping the protective barrier of our skin healthy to keeping up immune function, water is a necessity.
Water is the most essential part of human life, yet many of us struggle with consuming enough. Living in a state of consistent slight dehydration has effects on almost every system in your body, from a cellular level to your overall energy systems.
How much water do I need to stay hydrated?
Because each individual’s body includes a careful and precise balance of water, electrolytes, and minerals, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration. The hydration myth of drinking 64 ounces a day not only ignores individual body composition, but it also does not allow for variation in climate, clothing, or activity levels.
Our intake and output– both in the form of urination and sweat production– needs to balance. So if you are in a hot climate and sweating a lot, your intake will need to be higher than if you are in a temperate climate and dressed appropriately. Similarly, your water requirements on a heavy workout day will be higher than on a rest day.
The best way to evaluate your hydration is to look at your urine. If it is clear to light yellow, your body is well hydrated. Any darker than light yellow, and you need to up your water consumption. Frequency of urination should be at least every 3-4 hours, so if you are going longer than that between bathroom breaks you have another indication that you are likely under hydrated. Urine color is the best way to receive consistent feedback regarding your hydration.
Is water the only way to get hydrated?
In a word, yes. But the good news is that drinking water is NOT the only way to hydrate. Eating fruits with high water content– things like watermelon and citrus fruits– also contributes to your hydration levels. If you notice yourself craving fruits, that may be your body’s way of asking for more water!
Do I have to give up my coffee?
No! Coffee does contain caffeine which is a diuretic (something that goes right through your system and triggers the elimination response). However, as long as you are drinking only 1-2 cups per day, the diuretic effects of coffee do not eliminate the benefits of the water that is consumed in the coffee.
It is best, however, to ensure that you are drinking plenty of fresh water. Although debunking the hydration myth means you may not need 64-ounces per day, your body still needs plenty of water on its own to work most efficiently.