As the weather gets warmer here in the northern hemisphere, many of us get a lot more active! An increase in activity necessitates an increase in hydration. When it’s hot outside, even if you’re not active, you need to increase hydration as well. Heat causes you to sweat, and sweat causes you to lose a lot more water than you would if you weren’t sweating. While hydration is important year round, I thought the warmer weather would be a good time to really focus on your hydration levels!
If you’re in the southern hemisphere, heading into your cooler months, you can still participate! Cold air is dryer than warm air, and heating systems in buildings also dry the air out quite badly. While it’s more obvious you need to drink when it’s hot, it’s just as important to pay attention to your fluid intake when it’s cold!
How Much Water Do You Need?
This topic has been debated recently. The old rule of thumb was eight (8) glasses of water a day – and that was the recommended daily intake for decades! While that’s not a bad number to shoot for, it may not be enough for you! Eight glasses of water is equivalent to 64 fluid ounces of water daily, or about 1.9 liters.
Both my primary care doctor and my dietitian recommend a different formula for figuring out your fluid intake: take your body weight in pounds, divide it by three, and that’s your minimum water intake in ounces; divide your body weight by two, and that’s your recommended water intake in ounces. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, you need between 50 and 75 fluid ounces of water each day. I’m not sure what the formula would be for metric measurements, but that example above is equivalent to a person that weighs about 68 kilograms needing between 1.5 liters and 2.2 liters of water each day.
Recently, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine put out new guidelines for adequate fluid intake each day. The general recommended averages are: men should consume 15 1/2 cups (or about 3.7 liters) of fluid daily, while women should consume 11 1/2 cups (or about 2.7 liters) of fluid daily. As you can see, that recommendation is much higher than the amount given by the weight formula. This is due, in part, to this recommendation taking into account the fluids we get from our foods, while the weight formula gives a number for how much fluid should be consumed in beverage form. (Source: Mayo Clinic.)
Does it Need to be Just Water?
Short answer: No.
Water is the best source of hydration for our body (with a few exceptions) and you should strive to drink as much plain water as possible. Every single reaction in our body requires water, and that includes the reactions needed to separate the water from non-water liquids we consume. However, all forms of fluids, even caffeinated fluids, do count towards our hydration.
Wait, caffeine?! Yes, technically. Caffeine is a dieuretic, which means it causes our cells to release more water for excretion. However, if you’re drinking things like coffee and tea, they contain enough water that it’s not a total loss. Due to caffeines effect, however, I only count about 1/2 of the volume of my tea as “water” (if I drink a 16 ounce cup of tea, I only count it as 8 ounces of fluid). Since coffee includes a much higher quantity of caffeine, I would only count 1/3 of it’s volume (meaning an 8 ounce cup of coffee would be about 2 1/2 ounces of water). This counting method would insure that you are getting plenty of fluid.
The more pure the water, the better you will absorb and use it. There are a few exceptions: if you’re doing heavy exercise, you can cause dangerous electrolyte imbalances if you only consume water. If you’re sweating heavily, make sure to consume salt and potassium with the water – eat some salty chips with your glass of water and make sure you eat a banana or similar, or drink an electrolyte drink (try to avoid drinking too many of those though, since they’re so high in sugar).
Non-Math Ways to Tell You’re Hydrated
I know several of you probably groaned when you saw math was involved, but never fear! Here are some ways to tell if you’re hydrated without doing the math:
- You need to urinate often and your urine is either colorless or extremely pale yellow (more pale than lemonade)
- You do not feel thirsty
- Your lips are soft with no dry skin or cracking
For this coming month, I’m challenging you to track your fluid intake! This is possible even if you can’t consume fluids orally (if you use IV hydration, then it’s actually a lot easier to track your intake than if you don’t). For the first week, strive to reach the fluid intake from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: 15-16 cups a day for men, 11-12 cups a day for women. The next week, try experimenting to see how much fluid your body actually needs to remain hydrated (using the non-math criteria). The reason I want you to start with the blanket recommendation is because it’s easier to find your optimum when you’re starting hydrated. Once you find your optimum fluid intake for hydration, try maintain that intake daily for the rest of the challenge!
Track your fluid intake using the Health Storylines app (it’s 100% free, and you can get started: here), and share your progress on social media with the hashtag #FLSSselfcare so that we can cheer each other on!
Yes, I’ll be doing the challenge with you!
How to Track in the App
- Sign up for a free Health Storylines account
- Download the app
Option One – Oral Intake
- Go to the tool library and get the “Water Tracker” tool – this tool can be found in the “Spinal Cord Injury” section of the tool library (see my first challenge post for images that show how to add tools to the app).
- When you click on the tool, it takes you to a very simple tracker. It simply asks how much water you consumed – less than one glass, one glass, or two glasses. Just set the time of your response to when you drank the fluid, then enter how much. (For their purposes, one glass is 8 ounces or about 250 milliliters). If you’re drinking caffeinated beverages, I recommend doing the conversion I talk about above so you’re getting a more accurate visual.
- After you click “done,” you’re taken to the history page. For the Water Tracker tool, this is a calendar view that shows you how much you’ve consumed and at what time.
Option Two – Non-Oral Intake
- If you do not drink water/fluids orally, you can still participate using the Health Storylines app! You can either use the “Water Tracker” tool and just enter “one glass” for every 250mL of your fluids that enter your body.
- Or you can use the “My Journal” option to enter your fluids by hand.
I think the Water Tracker tool will still be useful for you, but play with each tool and see which you like better!
Don’t forget to post about your progress once a week using the hashtag #FLSSselfcare. Let’s see how many of us can stay properly hydrated! Oh, and you’ll notice a lot of great “side effects” from the extra hydration as well!