Lauren Rabaino

Hi Sarah,

It seems that I’ve always had a problem keeping myself hydrated. But when I think about it, I do have a significant amount of liquids in my daily diet. However, in your most recent article, you stated that one should drink six to eight glasses a day. From my standpoint, that sounds ridiculous! So I have a couple of questions: Can any form of water go into consideration for my daily quantity (i.e. ice from smoothies, soda and juices?) In what way can I get more water into my diet without making it feel like a homework assignment?

Thanks for the help,
Zachary Rosenthal
computer engineering sophomore

Although there are many theories about the amount to drink, a safe bet is to drink at least eight cups of water each day to make sure you are properly hydrated. If you’re working out regularly, you should ideally drink even more than eight cups. According to the American Dietetic Association, the average adult loses about two-and-a-half quarts, or about 10 cups of water, daily. To maintain your body’s fluid balance, you need to replace it each day.

Next to air, water is the element most necessary for survival. A normal adult is 60 to 70 percent water. We can go without food for almost two months, but only a few days without water. Yet most people have no idea how much water they should drink. In fact, many live in a dehydrated state.

It’s hard to figure out what counts toward your recommended daily intake of water with so many conflicting opinions out there. Coffee and tea do not contribute to keeping you hydrated; caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing you to excrete excess fluids and important vitamins and minerals. Carbonated drinks won’t help because it takes more water to digest the carbonation than you are consuming with the beverage, so you end up losing water. Juice can contribute to your fluid needs, but because it takes some water and energy stores to metabolize all that sugar within your body, you’re better off with just plain water. Ice doesn’t hydrate you either because it takes your body energy to melt the ice to 98.6 degrees, causing you to lose more fluids than you actually gain. Sports drinks contain electrolytes and may be beneficial; just look out for added sugar and calories that you don’t need.

The minimum for a healthy person is eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses a day. A good estimate is to take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That gives you the number of ounces of water per day that you need to drink. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink at least 80 ounces of water per day. If you exercise, you should drink another eight-ounce glass of water for every 20 minutes you are active. If you drink alcohol, you should drink at least an equal amount of water.

When you are traveling on an airplane, it is good to drink eight ounces of water for every hour you are aboard the plane. If you live in an arid climate, you should add another two servings per day. As you can see, your daily need for water can add up to quite a lot.

By not drinking enough water, many people incur excess body fat, poor muscle tone and size, decreased digestive efficiency and organ function, headaches, lower back pains, increased toxicity in the body, joint and muscle soreness, and water retention. It seems a little ironic, but fluid retention can sometimes be eliminated by drinking more water.

This sounds unpleasant, but the best way to tell if you are hydrated is your urine. A strong odor to your urine along with a yellow or amber color indicates that you may not be getting enough water. If your urine is pale yellow or almost clear, congratulations, you are hydrated, my friend.

It may be difficult to drink enough water on a busy day. Be sure you have water handy at all times by keeping a bottle for water with you when you are working, traveling, or exercising. One thing I do is always keep a glass of water next to me as I study. The bathroom breaks are a good reason to get up and get the blood flowing every now and then.

If you get bored with plain water, add a bit of lemon or lime for a touch of flavor. There are some brands of flavored water available, but watch for extra calories.

Your intake should be spread throughout the day and evening. You may wonder, “If I drink this much, won’t I constantly be running to the bathroom?” Yes. But after a few weeks, your bladder tends to adjust and you urinate less frequently, but in larger amounts. And by consuming those eight to 10 glasses of water throughout the day, you could be on your way to a healthier, more hydrated new you.

Sarah Bailey is a nutrition senior, a Mustang Daily nutrition columnist and a member of PULSE. E-mail her your questions at slbailey@calpoly.edu.

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