Published: June 14, 2011
Updated: June 14, 2011
By Kate Griesmann
Water makes up most of the earth, and most of our bodies, but it is an often-overlooked part of our diet. Blake Boggess, DO, with Duke Sports Medicine explains water’s vital role and how to be sure you’re getting enough each day.
Water is our body’s primary chemical component, making up more than half of our body weight. Inside the body, water does everything from transporting nutrients between cells to regulating body temperature; from dissolving minerals we need to helping the kidneys and liver flush what we don’t.
Throughout the day we lose water constantly by breathing, sweating, and using the bathroom. This fluid is replenished both through water we drink and as our bodies absorb the water in other beverages and foods.
While there is a lot of emphasis on the importance of drinking plenty of water every day, when it comes to knowing how much to drink, there isn’t a simple rule that works for everyone. “Water intake depends on many factors including your health, how active you are, the climate, and where you live,” Boggess said.
To prevent dehydration, you need to drink more water than you lose in a day -- but how much is that? “The average urine output for adults is about 1.5 liters, or six cups, a day, and you could lose close to an additional liter of water through breathing, sweating, and bowel movements,” Boggess said.
Drinking eight cups of water every day -- about two liters -- is commonly recommended, and is a good start to staying well hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends a bit more: 13 cups daily for men, and nine for women.
If keeping track of every ounce you drink seems like an unwanted addition to your to-do list, Boggess offers a simpler approach. “If you drink enough fluids so that you don’t feel thirsty and that your urine is colorless or slightly yellow, then you are probably drinking enough water,” he said.
Here are some simple ways to add more water to your daily routine:
While other beverages, including tea, coffee, sports drinks, and juice, contain water, they aren’t as effective at keeping your body well hydrated and shouldn’t be your primary beverages.
Thirst, fatigue, and headache are all symptoms of mild dehydration, which is caused by a loss of total body water. While dehydration can happen at any time, the risk goes up during physical activity or when spending time in hot and humid weather.
Even being surrounded by water isn’t enough to keep your body hydrated, so it’s important to drink plenty of water when swimming or doing other water sports. The same is true of winter sports, such as skiing or ice-skating, where heat isn’t a factor, but dehydration can still occur.
“If you are exercising, you will need to drink extra to compensate for fluid loss, which can be two to three cups of water,” Boggess said.
Dehydration does more than just slow you down; it can also lead to heat-related illnesses, such as muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, or fainting. Severe dehydration can cause serious complications, and may require medical attention.
Luckily, the most effective treatment dehydration is preventive and simple: Just raise a glass of water to your lips.