60% of our body is water. Every single cell of our body has a significant amount of fluid in it, which is extremely essential for its proper functioning. This makes it very essential for us to maintain our hydration at a healthy level. Proper hydration of your body will help you maintain your electrolyte level, keep you energized, helps your brain stay attentive, delay aging, and even help you lose weight. But how much water should you drink to gain all those benefits? Is the general recommendation of drinking 8 glasses or 2 liters of water right or wrong? Or should you drink a gallon of water each day?
How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?
There is no specific answer to this, unfortunately. But we do have some estimates.
Essentially, our water intake should be equal to the total water loss from our bodies. We lose water from our system in the form of urine, sweat, and while breathing all day long. In an average sedentary condition, this can be approximately 2300 to 3500 ml of fluid, i.e. 2.3 liters (~78 ounces) to 3.5 liters (~118 ounces), averaging at 2.6 liters of water.
Meaning, on average, consumption of 2.6 liters of water (i.e.8-9 glasses of water) each day is enough to replace your total fluid loss, and therefore, you can take it as your minimum daily requirement. Drinking a gallon (3.79 liters) of water is not necessary when you are not losing water more than usual. Drinking a healthy amount of water will benefit you, but drinking too much water won't necessarily give you any extra benefits, apart from maybe prevention of kidney stones.
This won't be the case, however, if you lose a gallon fluid on any particular day. Say, you exercised more than usual, you'll need more water in that case.
You can dehydrate faster in many cases, like in summers, when you have fever, diarrhea or vomiting, and when you exercise.
There is no way to accurately measure how much fluid you lost in a day. So you can make an average of a minimum of 2.6 liters of water each day, and for additional water loss you can keep on sipping a little bit of fluid every now and then.
Our Body Has a Great Mechanism
We cannot tell how much fluid we're losing. It's going to differ each day for the same person. If you are conscious enough and make an effort to maintain a healthy water intake then it's less likely that you'll be dehydrated often. But in case you forget to drink enough water or if more water is needed, your body has a clever way to remind you that you are getting dehydrated.
It's the thirst mechanism. Thirst is the first sign of dehydration, and a great way to know that you need water. Thirst kicks in when we start getting dehydrated. So, when you feel thirsty, that means you're already in mild dehydration.
Listen to your body and drink up some water when you feel thirsty. Don't postpone it. On the days when 2.6 liters of water is not enough, you'll know you need more water through your thirst mechanism.
However, you should not always wait for the thirst mechanism to kick in, because as mentioned, it's a sign that you're already mildly dehydrated. But you can use it as a guide.
Signs of Dehydration
Feeling thirsty and dry mouth is the first sign of dehydration. But when you stay dehydrated for a long time, other serious manifestations can occur too. Some of the common signs of dehydration are as follows:
- Decreased urination
- Deep yellow colored urine; you can use this as a strong indicator of dehydration as well
- Weakness and dizziness
- Dry and cold skin, lacking plumpness
- Sunken eyes (other people usually can tell this difference better)
- Low mood
- Rapid heart rate initially, (followed by a slowing of heart rate in severe dehydration)
- Rapid breathing
- Low blood pressure (an indication of moderate to severe dehydration)
- Muscle cramps
- Reduced brain functions - poor focus, concentration.and memory
- Seizures, coma, and death in severe dehydration
How Much Water Is Too Much Water?
Water intoxication or water poisoning (AKA hyperhydration or water toxemia) is an extremely rare condition.
This is caused when you consume a huge amount of water in a very small period. So, 4 liters of water in a day won't cause water intoxication, but 4 liters of water in 1 hour most likely will. Good thing is that in normal situations, you'll never consume as much water that will cause intoxication. But they do occur, though rarely.
Water intoxication usually occurs after water contests, in which people consume a huge amount of water in a short period or due to exercise-induced hyponatremia, i.e. when you have extremely long workouts and consume a lot of water, and even as a secondary complication to the drug ecstasy (MDMA). Some psychiatric conditions like psychogenic polydipsia is another at-risk group.
Just like a lack of water will cause electrolyte imbalance in your body, too much water causes imbalance as well. Excessive water in the system causes hyponatremia. This causes the cells to swell up, including your brain, and that can be fatal.
Some of the symptoms include headache, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, seizures and altered sensorium. If you see these symptoms following excessive water consumption, seek immediate medical help.
So How Can You Prevent Water Intoxication?
A healthy set of kidneys filters around 180 liters of body fluid each day and only a small amount (around 1.5 liters) of it is excreted as urine. At most, our kidneys can excrete 800 ml to 1 liter of urine in an hour, and so your intake should never be more than that within an hour if you have healthy kidneys.
On the other hand, if you have severe kidney issues (CKD) or heart issues (like CHF), this amount should be much lower because your system won't be able to handle 800 ml to 1 liter of fluid overload at once, and that can result in organ failure.
There are no specific recommendations that fit for all. But in these cases, small sips of water throughout the day would be healthier, instead of consuming a huge amount of water at once. It's best to consult your doctor first regarding what amount is healthy in your condition.
How to Make Sure That You're Drinking Enough Water?
Making sure that you get enough water is a common issue that we face because quite frankly it's easy to forget about drinking water when you are busy working. Then we also have this other group of people who don't like to drink plain water.
So here are a few simple methods using which you can increase your daily water intake.
- Carry water everywhere. And I mean everywhere. If you are sitting in your living room, keep a bottle in front of you. If you are working on your desk, keep a bottle of water with you. If you are going outside, take a bottle with you. The idea is, if you have it near you, you'll most likely consume it.
- Flavor up your water. You may not like drinking plain water, but water is essential and you need to make sure that you're getting enough of it. If you don't like to consume plain water, you can always modify it yourself at home without much additional cost. You can add various things in your water to flavor it up, like making fruit infused water, adding apple cider vinegar to your water and even add a little bit of commercially produced fruit juices, just enough to flavor the water a bit.
- Any fluid counts! Your water should not necessarily come from plain water. Our body takes water even from the food we consume. For example, a curry-based cuisine will have more fluid in it, and yes, that will contribute to your total fluid intake as well. Any liquid counts as your total fluid intake. Your food, fruits, coffee, tea, milk, juices, smoothies, health drinks, soups, broths, or any other form of fluid-based food or drink will make up for your total fluid intake. This makes it a lot easier for you to consume a healthy amount of fluids without getting bored with regular water. So, try to mix it up, and add a few different forms of liquids in your routine.
There is no official recommendation as to how much water should one be consuming but an estimated value will work just fine. We need to replace the fluid we lose every day. Listen to your body; when you're thirsty, don't ignore it.
Always keep a bottle of water with you, however also make sure that you're not overdoing it, especially if you have chronic kidney or heart issues. If you have these chronic illnesses, it's best to speak to your doctor regarding your water intake. They'll be able to guide you according to the severity of your disease.