One of the questions I’m most often asked is, “How much water should I be drinking every day,” and I frequently see different guidelines attempting to answer just that question. Today I’ll tell you the guides that I DON’T recommend, the one guide that I DO suggest, and some of my tips and tricks to help you drink more water in case it’s something you struggle with.
Two of the most common suggestions I see are “8 glasses a day”, and “between half and ounce to one ounce of water for every pound you weigh.” I’ll tell you right now that I don’t like either of those “recommendations.”
The 8 glasses a day suggestion appears to have come from a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation. If so, it shows that as a society we were just as bad about picking and choosing select snippets from sources as we are today, 70+ years later. In the recommendation, immediately after the suggestion to consume 2.5 liters of water a day, was the phrase, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” There was a further specific suggestion in this report that a person consume one milliliter of water (about one fifth of a teaspoon) for each calorie of food. When we do a little math, we find that a daily diet of around 1,900 calories would dictate the consumption of 1,900 milliliters of water, an amount remarkably close to 64 ounces. Again though, it was mentioned that much of that water would be contained in the foods that were consumed.
Eight glasses a day seems to be the “old-school” suggestion. Nowadays I’m more often hearing a suggestion to drink half your bodyweight in ounces per day – more if you’re active or live in a hot climate. I have not been unable to find any initial source for this suggestion, and the majority of sites that suggest to do just this are questionable and don’t link to any science behind their claims.
I do know that I’m noticing a scary trend, where it seems fashionable to drink as much water as possible. 8 glass a day, or 64 ounces, became half your bodyweight in ounces. For the average American woman, who weighs 166 pounds, that would be 83 ounces. If she was very active, lived in a hot climate, or was trying to lose weight, it might be suggested she drink 166 ounces of water a day. I’ve seen people post pictures to social media of their gallon (128 ounces) water jugs marked off with the hours of the day so they stay on track, sometimes with each mark being for 2 times of the day – implying they’re drinking 2 gallons, or 256 ounces of water, every day!
Why is this increase scary? Because it IS possible to drink too much water and throw your electrolytes out of whack. Some of the symptoms of Hyponatremia are:
- Cold hands and feet
- Low body temperature
- Frequent urination, clear urination, or urination at night
- Headaches or migraines
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Dry skin
- Blurred vision, mood changes, and other symptoms that many falsely believe to be “hypoglycemia”
- Heart palpitations or otherwise abnormal heart rhythms
- Strong cravings for salty foods
- Low blood pressure, dizzy spells, or episodes of blurred vision
Interestingly, many of these symptoms might be the very things you’re trying to avoid, as they can be similar to signs of dehydration! Too much of anything can be bad, and water is no different.
So what’s the best way to know how much water we need to be drinking? It’s not a one size fits all issue, as they rarely are. Our needs vary tremendously, factoring in our gender, size, activity level, what we’re eating and otherwise drinking, and the climate we live in. Telling everyone they need x amount is a mistake, but there is an easy marker.
Ideally, you want your urine to be straw or hay colored. Clear means you’ve gone too far. Dark with a strong odor means you need to hydrate (or need to back off on the asparagus, beets, or vitamin supplements).
It’s as easy as that.
Now, if you are one of the people who fall into the “often have dark pee” category, and struggle to drink enough water to get that perfect straw-colored pee that we’re looking for, here’s my tips:
- Keep your water handy. Find a water cup/mug/bottle style you like (Sport-top? Straw? Wide-mouth?) and make sure it’s nearby at all times. It should fit in your car’s cupholder, be on your desk at work, next to you or at least in the same room with you when you’re home.
- If you prefer icy-cold beverages, keep your water that way. Get cold often? Use an insulated mug and drink hot or warm water.
- Bored with the lack of flavor that pain water has? Add flavor and mix it up! Use fruits and/or herbs to make an infusion or herbal teas (they’ll add a light flavor even if that water isn’t hot). Just a splash of fruit juice is fine. Try some flavor drops or powders (here’s a brand of drops I like, and here’s the brand of citrus powders I prefer – but of course there’s tons available in the grocery stores).
- Use my tried-and-true water bracelets! Once you know approximately how much water you need daily, divide that amount by the size of your most often used water bottle or cup. Whatever that number is, put that many bracelets on your left hand – because you have that many LEFT to drink. Once you finished a bottle or cup, move a bracelet onto your right hand, because you’ll have done the RIGHT thing. Need some bracelets? I’ve got a rainbow assortment of jelly bracelets at the studio, right on the water fountain, for this very purpose. Grab some the next time you come by.
If you have a tip you’d like to share, or a question or comment, please feel free to leave it below!