A very good friend of mine recently went to the emergency room due to severe dehydration. His weekend was chock-full of activity – intense gym workouts, social drinks with friends, and lots of coffee (a diuretic) – but he wasn’t keeping up his water intake. This led to a few syncope (fainting) episodes that resembled mini-seizures followed by a morning of tests and IV fluids in the hospital. Now, not everyone experiences issues to this extent when they’re dehydrated, but this story – shared with the permission of my friend – just reemphasizes how important it is to stay hydrated. Dehydration can have a negative impact on many of our bodies’ systems.
One of the main organs that is impacted by dehydration is the brain – a shortage of water can lead to confusion and delirium, mood changes, impaired cognitive ability, and a reduction in short term memory. Water is also critical to smooth digestion; water in the intestines help to pass stool, and a lack thereof will often result in constipation. And, as my friend found out this weekend, proper levels of water are critical to maintaining good cardiovascular health. A lack of water can lead to a decrease in blood volume; then, when changing position (like standing up or bending over) blood pressure levels can drop and result in syncope. Of course, these are just short term symptoms of dehydration. Maintaining fluid levels is generally very important and has also been associated with reduced instances of exercise asthma, hyperglycemia in diabetics, and other diseases like UTIs and hypertension.¹
So how much water should we really be drinking? While we’ve all heard the old adage, “drink 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day,” there is no scientifically-backed magic number indicating how much water we should consume. Each person’s H2O needs are dependent on their age, gender, body type, weight, overall health, and activity level. However, the National Academies of Sciences does recommend that, in general, women should aim to consume at least 91 ounces of total water, while men should aim for 125 ounces. This total water count includes all water coming from beverages and food throughout the day.²
If you’re still not sure if you’re getting enough water, the American Heart Association recommends you monitor the color of your urine. Clear and pale urine indicates you’re properly hydrated, while dark urine is a sure sign you need to get more water in your system. If you want to ensure you’re replenishing your fluids after exercise, you can also weigh yourself before and after your workout session. For each pound of sweat you shed, it’s recommended that you drink a pint of water to offset the loss. Being proactive is key – if you wait until you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.³
But don’t go chugging all that water at once! The specialists at Harvard’s Medical School recommend that you try to gradually consume your daily quota of water, because the kidneys can’t eliminate water as quickly as we age.⁴ I personally have a reminder system in place so that I drink half a 20-ounce bottle of water every hour during the work day. This more or less guarantees I’ll hit, at minimum, 80 ounces before I go home – and then I’ll top it off when I eat dinner, replenishing any sweat when I go to the gym too. What sort of tips and tricks do you have to stay hydrated during the day? Let me know down in the comments or on Instagram!