Water is the most abundant substance in the human body (equivalent to 50-70% of total body weight). Our joints require it for lubrication, nutrients need it for transport and absorption, and our organs need it for protection.
Water is essential for human life.
Despite water being a critical component to sustaining life, it is often overlooked when we discuss nutrition.
When working with clients, I often hear the following questions quite frequently:
How much water do I need each day?
How can I tell if I’m properly hydrated?
I don’t like water—what can I do to address this?
There are some basic guidelines and principles we can use as a guide to help evaluate individual hydration needs, identify signs of dehydration and take a creative approach to helping you stay adequately hydrated.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? It’s commonly thought that eight 8-ounce cups of water a day for a total of 64 ounces is about right. This is a good baseline from which to evaluate individual needs, but a more personalized recommendation is to let thirst be the guide and hydrate throughout the day.
When it comes to individual hydration regimens, it’s important to consider the various factors that influence intake, such as sweat rate, water lost through waste excretion, and food and beverage consumption. Likewise, a person’s body size, weight, activity level and overall environment impact how much water he or she loses throughout a given day.
Everyone sweats at different rates; therefore, try consuming 8-16 ounces of water each hour (on the higher end if it’s hot and humid). For prolonged exercise (greater than 90 minutes) try taking in an electrolyte solution to help maintain fluid balance and avoid over-hydration.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION? A sensation of thirst is the first initial sign that the body is on its way to becoming dehydrated. Other signs and symptoms include:
Concentrated and decreased urine
Increased heart rate and low blood pressure
Dry mouth and eyes
Lack of coordination
Extreme cases of dehydration will cause weakness, trembling and a lack of mental clarity
The most effective way to monitor hydration status throughout the day is to monitor urine output. Urine should be a pale yellow. Anything darker may mean dehydration is setting in. Keep in mind that specific medications may affect the color of urine.