Is drinking 8 glasses of water per day truly necessary? It’s written about, health-care professionals tout it but is it truly based on science? Is the plastic bottle industry contributing to this recommendation besides greatly benefiting from it?
Although the camel is capable of drinking up to 5 gallons of water per day in the summer it’s a little unrealistic to compare our needs to our desert friend.
Could the recommended guideline of drinking 6-8 glasses per day be excessive?
Individualizing our diet requirements according to our genetics, size, exercise and age is critical so having specifics for our fluid needs is just as important.
Let’s take a look at the factors guiding individual fluid needs:
- Physiological needs – 60% of the human body is water, with the brain being 70%, blood 82% and lungs at 90%. Water is critical to regulating all the systems of our body including body temperature, lubrication of organs, joints, filtering out impurities, maintaining digestion and absorption, and keeping us alert.
Factors that increase fluid needs are heat and living in warm climates, excessive perspiration, fever, diarrhea, size and age (below). A handy guide for fluid needs in adults can be found here.
- Age – With age an individual’s bladder becomes less flexible and more difficult to expand, which can lead to more frequent urges to use the restroom thus affecting one’s willingness to hydrate.
In addition, the ability to detect thirst can also lessen with age, thus making the elderly an increased risk of dehydration. When I was the geriatric dietitian at UCLA dehydration was the number one reason for admission to that ward.
- Water consumed via food – Food has water content as well. The amount can vary to a large degree but in general fruits and vegetables contain the highest volume with many containing 80-90% water. See this chart for percentages of water in fruits and vegetables. If you consume a fair amount of produce this can be counted towards your fluid requirements.
- Physical activity level – Those who are physically active have increased needs for hydration depending on intensity, length, and frequency of their workouts as well as individual sweat rates.
Typically one hour of moderate intensity exercise burning 500 calories requires 500-750 mL of fluid replacement. This equates to between 1/2 -3/4 liters of water or approximately 2-3 cups of water. This requirement is in addition to one’s usual hydration requirements.
What does all this mean for you and your water needs? How can we make it simple?
First, take a look at your urine. It’s okay to wake up with dark urine, but look at your urine each time you eliminate. The key color is clear to at most the color of straw.
Keep in mind that being even 2% dehydrated can lead to significant fatigue and feelings of thirst, which are often perceived as feelings of hunger.
Bottom Line: Suggesting that you keep up with a camel’s hydration is a bit far-fetched, so individualizing your needs according to your age, climate, level of activity, and urine color is the key.
What’s an easy way to hydrate?
There are a plethora of water filtration products on the market. Jeffrey and I have tried many of them but recently tried the Camelbak Relay system. There was no delay in filling up the container, which helped with my lack of patience, and is BPA free, which is a necessity in this day and age. Jeffrey likes that it fits well in the refrigerator besides the water tasting great which is unusual given the history of Santa Monica water.
We’ve had the expensive systems, which required pricy filters, Plummer’s, etc. and then tried a few others so we are glad to have found this one and no – I am not paid by Camelbak.
However, it’s nice to have a Camel help us reach our water consumption needs this summer!
This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart, and RD intern Caitlin Schoensiegel.