Considering I just wrote a post about how I spent the better part of a week practically dying of thirst, it seems like the perfect time to talk about water consumption.
Many people are unsure of the correct amount of water they should be drinking. In addition, many people even go overboard with the water when they are getting started on their fitness journey. This morning, I saw an IG post from a wannabe bikini competitor, who has not even set a stage date yet, whining about how she has to drink a gallon of water per day. Girl, no.
While water is indeed very beneficial, and it has been shown to reduce appetite and boost metabolism, it is not a magical substance. When most overindulge on high-carb and high-fat foods, the common response is to drink more water to “flush out” the system. Yes, it is important to drink water during such times, but doing so will not undo all of the damage caused. If only it was that simple.
Let’s first consider exactly why water is so important to the body:
- Water makes up 60 per cent of your body weight. Every single system in your body depends on water for optimal function. Because our bodies naturally lose water through perspiration, urination and even breathing, it is essential that we replenish this lost fluid by drinking water.
- Water is essential for removing toxins and transporting good nutrients to the cells. It allows all the chemical reactions in our bodies to take place and it also regulates our body temperature.
- Our brains cannot function optimally when we are dehydrated. This can affect our concentration levels as well as our moods.
- A consistently sufficient water intake has been linked to lower risks of constipation and kidney stones. For those of us that suffer from acne, there is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence linking increased water consumption with reduced skin irritation.
- Drinking enough water is also important for those trying to lose weight. Thirst is frequently mistaken as hunger. If you feel hungry, try drinking a huge glass of water and then see if your hunger levels have decreased 20 minutes later, before eating. This also causes you to naturally eat less at meal times.
- As mentioned, water also provides a short, temporary boost to your metabolism. Drinking two litres of water requires about 100 calories of energy to process, and this expenditure increases in the case of cold water, as the body has to heat it to room temperature.
- Although it’s not as exactly as tasty as juice, soft drink or wine, water contains no calories, and you can drink as much of it as you like without worrying about weight gain.
So, just how much water should you be drinking a day?
I recommend that women should consume two litres (about half a gallon) and men three litres per day. I count herbal teas towards this, but not coffee or regular black tea.
The exact amount will depend on your height, weight, health, activity level and environment.
Exercise increases your rate of perspiration so, for that reason, you should add 500ml for every hour of activity you do. You do not need to drink sports drinks containing electrolytes unless you are engaged in intense, endurance-based exercise that lasts longer than an hour.
If you are in a hot climate, feel free to drink even more depending on your level of thirst.
The best way to know if you are adequately hydrated is by looking at the colour of your urine. You should aim for it to be clear or a very light yellow, with no odour (except for first thing in the morning). Drinking little and often is better than trying to chug it all at once.
To use myself as an example, when I’m in London (where it is cold and miserable, even in June!), I only drink about a litre of water a day. BUT I drink about 637 cups of tea to keep warm, so it balances out. In a “normal” climate, assuming that I’m training my usual 4-5 times a week, I drink about 2.5 litres of water a day.
In countries like Morocco, Italy and Guatemala where, for some reason, the gyms are not air-conditioned and are hotter than being outdoors, I sweat buckets and can easily throw down five litres a day.
Is there such a thing as too much water?
You don’t need to go overboard with your water consumption. Unfortunately, the benefits do not increase based on the amount you drink. There is even too much of a good thing and, in rare cases, you can risk suffering from water intoxication or dangerously low sodium levels.
Someone recently asked me if they should drink two gallons of water per day, just for the “health benefits”. My firm answer was no, unless they have a strange desire to spend half of their day running to the bathroom.
Our bodies are clever and will usually indicate when they need water. Unless you are ignoring your thirst levels for a specific reason (such as Ramadan, cutting weight for a competition, etc), simply responding to your body’s signals should keep you healthy. Don’t overthink it.
How much water do you drink per day?
(PS. This post was by request. If you have any topics you would like me to write about, feel free to email me or leave them in the comments below!)