Hydration is one of those aspects people tend to overlook when trying to bring their health together. Depending on our age, the body is made up of between 50 and 75% water, so it is something that we ALL need to be more cognizant of on a regular basis. You may be thinking that your headaches, your digestive complaints, or maybe even your skin issues are problems you need to be addressing medically; but a vast majority of these complications are actually due to being dehydrated! This article will detail how our bodies use water to function, and how to maintain appropriate hydration levels at all times!
Just like we all have a Standard Caloric Need (SCN), we each also have a Standard Water Need (SWN) that is based on our body weight. Your SWN is a basic calculation to divine this starting point by simply dividing your body weight by two.
Standard Water Need (SWN) = Body Weight / 2
Getting half your body weight in ounces of water makes sure that your water output (urine, sweat, poop) is normally less than your water intake (how much you drink). Where most of us fail to keep these levels in balance is regarding the types of fluids we consume.
A Typical Day in the Life
A lot of people wake up every morning and start the day with a cup of two of coffee before and during breakfast. They then choose to have a cup of juice with breakfast, and if they have cereal, they've also had milk. Next, they might even opt for a soda, tea or lemonade over lunch near where they work. Then, the afternoon drop in energy hits, and in goes another cup of coffee to keep them from falling asleep at the desk. After a caffeine-fueled second wind, those people rarely drink anything else until they go home and have a beer/glass of wine for dinner with the family. Sounding a little familiar?
In our experience, this a very typical hydration routine for people we work with...the downside is that it's HIGHLY detrimental to your health! Any non-water beverages that you drink in a day actually DETRACT from your total water balance. They cause your body to pull water from your healthy tissues to dilute these drinks before removing them from the body. Ever hear how non-water beverages are diuretics? That's because the process of diluting them to make urine causes you to lose excess water, causing further dehydration. Not only that, but your body needs water to perpetuate proper digestion, detoxification, etc. In more severe cases, you end up urinating less than normal as your body falls into a constant battle of releasing/absorbing the water needed for these processes. When there's not enough extra water to perform these crucial functions, that's when the headaches, drowsiness, and other symptoms kick in as you become more and more dehydrated throughout your day!
Totaling the beverages above, your morning coffee (8-16 ounces), cup of juice and milk (8-24 ounces), non-water lunch beverage (12-16 ounces), afternoon coffee (8 ounces) and 12-16 ounces of beer/wine in the evening would lend between 48 and 64 ounces of dehydrating drinks! Consuming these typical fluid amounts, you'd actually be NEGATIVE 48-80 OUNCES by the end of your day! Such imbalances are typical reasons why people become chronically dehydrated, but are easily corrected in the following ways.
How to Correct Your Hydration
You now know that you have a Standard Water Need (based on your body weight), so let's correct your daily hydration pattern to reflect that. Assuming that you currently weigh 200 pounds, you would need to be drinking 100 ounces of plain water per day. A more productive routine would begin with at least 8-16 ounces of water when you first wake up. This would replace some of the water lost overnight through sweat and normal metabolism while you slept. It would also mobilize your bowels for your morning poop, and make it easier to digest your breakfast. As for your morning coffee, the amount you are allowed in a day depends on your genetic methylation capacity, but generally no more than a SINGLE 8 OZ. CUP of coffee in the morning should be your limit. Keeping a coffee at breakfast shouldn't hurt your hydration, but we DO have to compensate for this in your plain water intake (like we would with any other non-water beverage). This second equation shows how to do this based on the "non-water" beverages you choose to consume daily.
Adjusted Water Need (AWN) = Standard Water Need (SWN) + SUM (daily non-water ounces)
Here are a couple strategies to implement your AWN effectively. Start by replacing more of the less conducive non-water beverages with PLAIN WATER. That means removing juice, milk, soda, etc for the most part to more easily improve your hydration status. This will decrease how much you have to drink overall in your day, and make staying hydrated less of a challenge. Next, try keeping a ceramic/glass cup of water or stainless steel water bottle at your desk. If you use a bottle or larger cup (and aren't getting up every hour to get 5 minutes of activity an hour already), just don't fill the bottle up completely. It will give you a reason to leave your desk to get water more frequently, while adding to your total daily activity! With these strategies, you'll end up running out of water at your desk more often; so hydration will become less of an issue as you refill your cup/bottle every hour or so.
"So I can't have my other drinks besides water?! That's SO MUCH WATER!"
We won't tell you that you can't have an occasional tea, lemonade or even alcoholic beverage; but you have to be aware that any non-water drinks are stealing water from your body, and need to be accounted for. Minimizing them will make reaching your Adjusted Water Need much easier, so front-loading with water instead makes it much easier to stay hydrated. The Adjusted Water Need calculation is the most appropriate metric for those that don't exercise to maintain adequate hydration levels. For our 200 lb. example (limiting their non-water to one 8 ounce cup of coffee and a glass of wine), the Adjusted Water Need would be something like 116 ounces.
So How Does Exercise Play into Things?
Years of bro-science and generalized public health information have convinced people that they need to be drinking a gallon of water a day to be healthy...but this just isn't very accurate. A 2007 review of the literature determined that the Adequate Intake for adult females and males is approximately 2.7-3.7 liters (0.71-0.98 gallons) of water respectively. Though this guideline sounds simple, it has some blaring limitations. Just like BMI, these recommendations do not account for individual variability of weight, activity, exercise, etc. Therefore, we recommend using the AWN or a more specific calculation we call your Daily Water Need (DWN) to account for both your non-water intake and exercise. The math for how much water you ACTUALLY need pre-, during and post-exercise gets pretty complex; but for most of you, simply adding 8-16 ounces per hour of exercise to your AWN will be sufficient to begin with.
Daily Water Need (DWN) = AWN + (Exercise Hrs x 8-16 oz)
Our 200 pound person from before (having an 8 ounce cup of coffee at breakfast and an 8 oz. glass of wine in the evening) would have to consider his/her daily exercise volume to calculate their DWN. Like we mentioned in the last article, exercising ONE HOUR should be your max for any given day unless under a coach's supervision; so in most cases, the number of exercise hours per day should be limited to one. Unlike the Standard Caloric Need, the Daily Water Need is dependent on the DAY IN QUESTION rather than a weekly average. Therefore, if this person exercised today, their DWN would be 124-132 oz. versus only 116 oz. on a rest day.
Now you know how much water to drink on a daily basis regardless of whether you are just getting started or have to compensate for exercise as well! Use these equations and strategies to help alleviate most of the issues you might be having.
Depending on if you are only drinking water, needing to account for other fluids, and/or if you are exercising; there are different calculations for how much water you should be consuming on a daily basis. Rather than suffering symptoms related to chronic dehydration, simply use the appropriate calculations to keep both your cup and your body full of the water they need to keep you healthy on a daily basis!
Each kind of non-water beverage (like coffee, flavored water, teas, etc) and even different intensities of exercise can vary your individual water needs beyond these equations...but we will address those nuances in a later article. For the time being, use these equations and suggestions to SEE YOURSELF CHANGE with optimal hydration from this point forward! If you are following these guidelines and not seeing the results you are looking for, remember that having a coach evaluate your situation in a Health Analysis will provide even more personalized recommendations; but this should get you started if you put in the effort. We hope you've enjoyed this article, and look forward to helping you out even further in the future with SYXGEN!