Ask any attractive celebrity or model what her secret beauty tip is, and I guarantee you, she will say water. With over half of the human body being water, it’s no wonder that we need it to stay healthy. The human body needs enough water to digest food, allow cells to grow and survive, flush the body of waste, lubricate joints, deliver oxygen throughout the body, aid cognitive function, regulate body temperature, and manufacture hormones. (Phew!) Without it, we wind up dehydrated: our skin dries and is more prone to wrinkles and breakouts, we become lethargic and foggy, we are more likely to snack and have trouble shedding excess weight, and the list goes on.
Ok, fine, so we need water. But wait! How much do we need?
Interview a random sample of people on the street, and chances are, they will not even hesitate when they robotically rattle off, “8 glasses a day.” It seems simple enough, but is it true? Where did that rule come from? Does everyone need that much?
Normally, I would do a fun little “pros/cons” set-up and then draw conclusions, but truth be told, I couldn’t find a single shred of evidence supporting the 8×8 rule. No one seems to know where this health tip originated!
Still, water remains a crucial piece of the health puzzle; it helps us look, feel, and function our best. Here are some generally helpful facts about staying hydrated:
– As a population, we are not drinking very much water, only averaging about four cups per day. Nearly one-quarter of us do not drink any plain water at all throughout the day. Not one sip.
– Most individuals stay adequately hydrated by listening to their thirst signals. The *: As we get older, our thirst signals weaken, and may not be as reliable.
– Daily water needs vary by body size, activity level, overall health, diet, metabolism, and even where you live. The Institute of Medicine recommends about 13 cups for men and nine cups for women, though these are still very general guidelines.
Still confused? Here are some signs that you might not be getting enough water:
– Dark yellow or strong-smelling urine
– Dry mouth
– Muscle cramps
– Abdominal pain
On the flip side, a growing percentage of individuals are actually consuming too much water, which can also be dangerous. This is especially common among athletes who are trying to stay hydrated during intense workouts. Though water replenishment is essential, individuals in these circumstances are also losing electrolytes, and only replacing the water can lead to a host of chemical imbalances in the body. Here are some signs that you may, in fact, be over-hydrated:
– Completely clear urine
– Swollen hands
THE BOTTOM LINE: FIT OR FLOP?
FLOP! An over-generalized water recommendation for the entire human population is about as useful as that dress that suspiciously claims to be “one size fits all.”
No one is arguing that water is not important. Not only do we need it to survive, as mentioned above, but it can be a powerful health tool in less clinical ways, too. It is common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated can ward off mindless munching; and focusing on drinking plenty of water can shift intake away from sweetened or alcoholic beverages, each with its own host of benefits.
In the end, eight glasses of water a day may not be a terrible place to start; but be sure to also listen to your thirst cues and use the super-scientific hydration test of observing the color of your urine. If you’re not thirsty and your urine is a pale lemonade, you’re on the right track. If you’re feeling thirsty or your urine is pretty dark, keep drinking.