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Hydration Matters: Your Health and Well-Being Need Water

Published on: 05/20/2024

Not too long ago, I had a day where I would be in the car for several hours. On days like this, I typically go back and forth between podcasts and music. This time, I started with podcasts and stumbled across The Culture Study Podcast.

The episode that I listened to was titled “Come Drink from the Stanley Cup” and it discussed hydration – from unpacking our obsession with hydration to discussing the Stanley cup craze. Not long after listening to this podcast, I came across an article titled, “All that water you’ve been drinking may be doing more harm than good.” This article also discussed our obsession with being hydrated. Both of these were quite interesting. In fact, they were interesting enough that I’m now writing about hydration. We’ll skip the Stanley cup business (although, I will pause here to admit that I have two Stanley quenchers and I also feel like I should state that they were both gifts) but we’ll discuss why hydration matters – what is hydrated, can you be overly hydrated, how much water do you actually need, and more.

It should be no surprise that there is a lot of misinformation about being hydrated. Drinking water seems to be among the latest and greatest health trends…but hydration is quite important and it does matter for your health and well-being.

Your body needs water

Water matters…it matters deeply. It is essential for life and plays a crucial role in your overall health and well-being. Water plays a role in almost every thing your body does. Some of the benefits of water include:

  • Regulating body temperature
  • Aiding digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Supporting cellular function
  • Maintaining cognitive performance
  • Supporting skin elasticity
  • Keeping joints lubricated

Dehydration can lead to a variety of problems such as fatigue, headaches, and difficulty to concentrating. Severe dehydration can be life threatening. Mild dehydration can impact how you function and feel.

Do I really need to drink 8 glasses of water per day?

It’s complicated. We don’t really know where the 8, 8 fluid ounce cups of water per day advice came from. It isn’t backed by any scientific evidence. You may need more than this, you may need less. Like your nutrition needs, your water needs are individualized to you.

The recommendation that I see most often and that seems to work best with my clients is from the National Academy of Sciences. This recommendation is that men need 3.7 liters of fluid and women need 2.7 liters of fluid. This doesn’t have to all come from water. All liquid – coffee, tea, soda, juice – provides fluid. You also get about 20% of your fluid needs from the foods that you eat. Here’s a quick breakdown to help this make sense:

For WomenFor Men
Total fluid needs in liters2.73.7
Total fluid needs in fluid ounces91.3125
Amount needed from fluids2.16 liters (73 fluid ounces)2.96 liters (99 fluid ounces)
Total 40-oz Stanley Quenchers neededA little more than 1.75 About 2.5
Total 42 oz Yeti Ramblers neededAbout 1.75About 2.33 

How do I know if I’m hydrated?

For this, I recommend that you look at your urine and how often you’re going to the bathroom. Urine that is a pale yellow, not clear but light yellow, is a good sign that you are hydrated. You can also take into account how often you are heading to restore your personal comforts (aka pee). If your heading to the bathroom, every 30 minutes or so, you may be overhydrating. If you’re restoring your personal comforts every 2-3 hours, you’re in a good hydration state.

Do I need to drink an electrolyte drink?

This, too, is complicated. There are a lot of factors that can play into whether or not you need an electrolyte drink – your activity level, how much time you spend outside, how dry it is where you live, the temperature, and more. 

If you eat a variety of different foods, you likely don’t need an electrolyte drink. However, some people may find that they simply feel better if they add in some electrolytes. This was the case for a client of mine. She ate a pretty decent variety of foods. She struggled to get in enough fluid throughout the day. She was also struggling with sleep and headaches. During one session, I recommended that she try an electrolyte drink; just one per day. At our next session, she was thrilled. She was sleeping through the night much better which meant she felt better overall. 

An electrolyte drink might be something worth trying if you are interested and as long as there are no medical reasons that you should stay away from extra electrolytes (sodium is an electrolyte). I know that I feel better when I have an almost daily electrolyte drink (my preferred electrolyte drinks are biolyte and nuun).

Is it really possible to drink too much water?

In short, yes. Excessive amounts of water can cause your sodium levels to plummet. This is called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia can lead to headaches, confusion, loss of energy, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, seizure, and, in extreme cases, coma.

Chugging a large amount of water in a short period of time can lead to hyponatremia. Hyponatremia can occur if someone is drinking a lot of water and losing electrolytes but not replacing those electrolytes, such as a person running a marathon and only drinking water at the aid stations. Certain medications can also cause someone to be at a higher risk for hyponatremia.

As long as you’re spreading your fluid intake out over the course of a day, hyponatremia isn’t likely something that you need to worry about. However, it is something that you might want to be aware of…just in case.

How can I stay hydrated?

I can give you numerous tips on how to stay hydrated but the absolute best thing you can do to figure out your optimal hydration status is this – think about a day or few days when you felt like you did a good job staying hydrated. What was it about that day that helped you stay hydrated? Were you using a specific cup that day? Did you do something to keep your water extra cold? Was there something specific about your drinks that day? What was it that made drinking water (or other fluids) easy for you that day? 

For me, it’s the cup and the temperature. I do better with a large cup (the volume of my cup matters) and I do better if the cup has a handle and a straw. I also prefer my water and other fluids to be very cold. Essentially, yes, I do better with a 40-oz Stanley Quencher. Someone else who did this exercise figured out that it’s the ice that matters for her. What is it that matters for you?

Resources

https://apple.news/A5CXu1ZFGTnu5zZ8HVZ8b7g

https://culturestudypod.substack.com/p/come-drink-from-the-stanley-cup

https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/11537/chapter/15

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About Jessica
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Jessica is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and trained FODMAP Coach. She started Friendly Nutrition to help you find balance, peace, and joy in eating, in your relationship with food, and in your relationship with your gut.

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