The debate about how much water you need to drink each day rages on. I’ve doled out my share of dumb information about the intake of water in the past but because I just turned 50, I’m going to relax a bit and tell you about my new more reliable method for determining water intake.
My method doesn’t require calculations. Some will say Please! Give me some numbers, I like data! No. Stop. Chances are you don’t need to do a calculation. There are a few exceptions though. For those of you out there who compete at a high level, or if you are a grappler or fighter of some kind, trying to make weight and stay hydrated, then I can understand the need for crunching some numbers. Everyone else, please stop, it’s not going to make or break you and you’ll probably get it wrong anyway.
But what if I eat alot of chips and carbs and sugar? If you eat the Standard American Diet and you don’t exercise much, then you should start the practice of monitoring your blood sugar because you will more than likely become a diabetic. Excessive thirst and water consumption may indicate that you have chronically elevated blood sugar levels and you better make a change right away. Drinking more water isn’t going to solve your problem.
What about if I eat Paleo? The Paleo Diet is full of foods that contain a plethora of foods that have high water content and low in foods that have low water content. The water- filled foods count towards the body’s daily requirement of fluids and therefore you won’t have to drink as much water as you would otherwise.
For those of you just gotta have a calculation to tell you what to do, the CDC has put together a nice graph which I have cut and pasted from their website below. But again, I don’t encourage this anymore because there are so many variables from person to person and a statistic will put you in the ballpark but it won’t tell you if you are on target.
Figure 1. Mean total water intake per day among adults aged 20 and over, by sex and age group: United States, 2009–2012
- Significantly different from those aged 60 and over, p < 0.01.
- Significantly different from those aged 20–39, p < 0.05.
NOTES: Symbol is 95% confidence interval. Access data table for Figure 1.
SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009–2012.
Yes, there are exceptions to the above numbers. If you sweat a lot, then you need to add salt and electrolytes to into the mix in order to avoid electrolyte imbalances.
So here it is people. These are my two suggestions for those who want the simplest easiest way to determine if they need more fluids.
- Drink when you are thirsty – Thirst is a wonderful mechanism for determining our need for water. All mammals drink when they are thirsty and so should we. This method is easy and fairly reliable if you are under the age of 60 and you pay attention to your body signals. Between ages 20 and age 60, our sense of thirst should be largely intact. As we age, we tend to lose our sense of thirst and we may need to rely more on output as a measure which I will talk about below. One thing to note here is that many people don’t pay attention to their body signals and if you are one of them, then you probably get frequent headaches and you don’t feel on top of your game mentally. This means you need to pay more attention.
- Look at the color of your urine – The color of urine tells you alot about hydration. The more color in the urine, the less hydrated you are. If you are properly hydrating throughout the day, your urine should be clear and slightly yellow in color. If it is not, then you should get busy and hydrate.
- Combine the two methods – This is still incredibly simple to do and the most reliable method I know of to stay properly hydrated. Drink when you’re thirsty and drink more when your urine is darker than it should be. It’s very simple and it works.
Thoughts or questions? Shoot them over!
~Dr. Timothy Hyatt
An innovator who enjoys discovery, research and science, Dr. Timothy Hyatt loves to create and improve products that help people.