Water, water everywhere but how much do you really need?
The question of how much water is needed for adequate hydration is one that has more answers than many other nutrition related questions. The answer to the question is very simple.
In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) assessed hydration status by reviewing research studies and food and nutrition surveys. The IOM stated that the vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their hydration needs by letting thirst guide them. The IOM did not set exact requirements but set recommendations for women at about 91 ounces of fluids per day and for men 125 ounces per day.
The recommendations also stated that all fluids count so water, milk, coffee, tea and soft drinks count to body hydration. In addition to fluids, the fluid content of fruits and vegetables also count in the day’s intake. The IOM report stated that about 80 percent of fluid intake comes from beverages and 20 percent from foods. So how much fluid do you need?
A good place to start is with about eight cups (8 oz) of water and other water based beverages each day. Take note of how you feel, are you thirsty? What is the frequency of urination? And is your urine color too yellow?
If you answered yes to these questions boost your fluid intake. Guidelines recommend the amount of fluid you need depends on your body, so assessing your intake and how it affects your body is the best place to begin the determination of how much you need.
These guidelines are for adequate hydration so more fluids are needed during physical activity or with weather extremes. As temperatures deviate from the ideal temperature for body functions – too hot or too cold - the amount of fluid needed increases. More fluids are needed during pregnancy and lactation or when sick with a fever, diarrhea or vomiting.
While all fluids count towards your daily need not all fluids are equal in terms of calories or sometimes in terms of nutrition. Water is the best choice for hydration since it supplies no calories, no caffeine, (a stimulant) and it has no sodium or fat. Milk and 100 percent fruit juice are next best choices since they offer a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. They do contribute calories so they shouldn’t be the major source of all your fluid needs.
Consider the following:
- Take count of your fluid intake to determine what you need
- Compare calorie versus noncalorie beverages to determine if calorie beverages need to be reduced
- Drink water before, during and after a workout
- Limit sports drinks to workouts that last longer than 45 minutes in order to keep calories down