Do We Need to Be So Obsessed with Hydration?

A registered dietitian explains how much your water intake actually affects your overall health.

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Photo by: Jamie Grill/Getty

Jamie Grill/Getty

Fluids help our bodies function properly and inadequate intake can impact sleep, mood, and body function. However, in an attempt to hydrate some people go overboard drinking more water than what their body actually needs.

If you’re thinking, well how much water do I actually need? Despite the popular and outdated six to eight cups a day recommendation, there is no evidence that drinking this amount of water is necessary and drinking extra water hasn’t been shown to provide any additional health benefits. Overhydration can be disruptive and uncomfortable and in extreme cases, can cause seizures, coma and even death.

Fluid needs are different for everyone and factors like climate, age, activity level and medical history should be considered. If you’re looking for formulas or calculations, I’m here to tell you that your body is one of the best predictors of your unique fluid needs. A simple way to check if you’re getting enough water is to pay attention to how much you’re urinating and the color of your urine. If you find yourself constantly going to the bathroom and your urine is coming out transparent, that’s a sign that you’re probably drinking too much water and need to cut back. A light to pale yellow typically indicates good hydration and dark yellow to brown tones indicate dehydration. Keep in mind that strongly pigmented foods like beets and carrots can impact urine color, along with B-vitamins and certain medications.

Another way to tell whether or not it’s time to hydrate is by drinking up when you’re thirsty. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people ignore their body’s intuitive signals. Aside from thirst, other signs of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue, headaches, constipation, dryness in the mouth and urinating less than three times per day. If you’re struggling to meet your fluid needs, here are five helpful tips!

Keep in mind that foods like fruits, vegetables, juice, dairy and sparkling water provide a significant amount of hydration and should be considered as part of our total fluid intake.

Distribute fluid intake throughout the day.

Aim to consistently hydrate during the day instead of drinking large amounts of water during short time intervals. I enjoy having a couple glasses of water first thing in the morning and then time things out based on meal times. If you work out regularly, make sure you’re properly hydrated before, during and after exercise.

Carry a large water bottle.

It can be annoying to have to refill water bottles every hour. Invest in a bottle that can hold you down for a few hours and is easy to carry when you’re out and about.

Build up the flavor.

If plain water gets boring, add herbs, citrus and tea to your water for added color and flavor!

Blend fruits.

Smoothies are a fun way to hydrate, especially during the warmer months! If you enjoy smoothies for breakfast, make sure to add foods like yogurt, nuts, milk and seeds for added nutrition.

Keep water around the house.

Having visual reminders can be helpful for remembering about hydration. Since I tend to forget about drinking water, I keep small jars of water in my bedroom, living room, office and kitchen and sip on them throughout the day as I move around the house doing daily tasks.

As a registered dietitian/nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, Wendy Lopez, MS, RDN, CDCES is passionate about accessible and culturally relevant nutrition education. She is the co-host of the Food Heaven Podcast, and the co-founder of Food Heaven, an online platform that provides resources on cooking, intuitive eating, wellness and inclusion. When not working on creative projects, Wendy also provides nutritional counseling and medication management to patients with diabetes.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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