Water is necessary for our survival. About 60% of the human body is composed of water.
Water serves many purposes in the body including:
- It serves as a vital nutrient to the life of every cell
- Helps deliver oxygen and nutrients all over the body
- Regulates our internal body temperature through sweating and respiration
- Helps metabolize carbohydrates and proteins from food
- Flushes waste through urination, sweating, and bowel movements
- Acts as a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord, and fetus
- Forms saliva
- Lubricates joints
Dehydration can lead to a number of serious conditions such as: kidney failure, seizures, shock, and death. But how much water do we actually need to prevent dehydration?
Water requirements are highly dependent upon the individual for factors such as exercise, environment, overall health, pregnancy, and medical conditions (i.e. kidney or heart disease), can all influence your exact needs. You have probably heard the advice, “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” While this is a good starting point for healthy individuals, it may not be enough for some or it may be too much for others.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is: 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men & 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a total of:
- 13 cups (about 3 liters) of fluid for men
- 9 cups (a little over 2 liters) of fluid for women
- 10 cups of water daily for pregnant women
- 12 cups a day for breastfeeding women.
You may notice that both of these recommendations are higher than the recommended 8 cups a day. The reason is because they include fluids from all other beverages, such as tea, coffee, and juice, and foods such as soup and produce. Vegetables and fruits (cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, citrus, berries), have a high water content and can help you stay hydrated. While caffeine in coffee and tea can make you pee more frequently, the water from these beverages still leads to a net positive contribution to total fluid consumption. Juice, sports drinks, coffee drinks, and smoothies are packed with sugar, so be mindful of those calories when counting them toward your fluid needs. Water is calorie-free.
It is certainly harder to track your water intake when you count foods in the mix so to know if you are truly meeting your fluid needs, check your urine. The darker the urine = the more water and fluid you need. The clearer it is = the more you are hydrating properly.