Most of us just take for granted that we are drinking enough water, but what you don’t know may actually hurt you.
How much water should you be drinking?
For as long as I can remember, the conventional wisdom was to drink eight 8oz glasses (1 gallon) of water per day.
In the past 10 years, the thinking has focused on the assumption that a bigger person needs to consume more water than a smaller person. A ratio makes more sense than a “one size fits all” number as a bigger person burns up more energy and uses up more water than a smaller person. The common recommendation used by the pundits over the last decade has been to drink 1/2 ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight.
There have been rare incidences reported of hyponatremia (water intoxication) reported among marathon runners who drink too much water without electrolytes, but for the most part, it is virtually impossible to drink too much water.
What happens if you don’t drink enough water?
If your body is as little as 2% dehydrated, your physical and mental capacity drops from 10% to 15%. That may sound a little extreme, but it’s true. When you feel tired, or you can’t concentrate, you may find that simply drinking a big glass of water makes a difference.
Your body ages faster if you don’t hydrate properly and the aging process is not limited to the development of facial wrinkles.
Since 60% or more of your body weight and 99% of every molecule in your body is water, you don’t have to extrapolate too far to realize that dehydration is responsible for numerous health issues. The most widely documented side effects of dehydration are digestive issues and increased risk of kidney stones. Additional signs of dehydration include: headaches, sore eyes, bad breath, and sore joints.
None of the above listed side effects of dehydration should be ignored, but in my opinion, the most important side effects of not drinking enough water are weight-gain, obesity, and diabetes, which are all related.
Most of us don’t drink nearly enough water. Instead, we quench our thirst with sugar-based drinks such as sodas and juices. Making matters worse, your brain is unable to distinguish the bio-feedback signals for thirst and hunger unless your mouth is dry and in obvious need for liquid. That’s right, when you feel hungry between meals and in the evening, your body is almost certainly telling you that you are thirsty, not hungry. Advertisers seize upon this knowledge by constantly reminding us to “snack-up” with junk foods and sugar-based drinks.
In the USA, tobacco companies are banned from advertising and they must include a health warning on their packaging. Canada has taken the warnings one step further by forcing tobacco companies to include a graphic picture on their packaging that should turn the stomach of anyone considering lighting up.
Obesity is often a precursor to the onset of Type 2 Diabetes which accounts for 90% of all diabetes cases. The CDC lists diabetes as the 7th leading cause of death in the USA at 76,000 victims per year. However, research indicates that the number may actually be four times higher based upon in-depth analysis of the death certificates that were cross referenced with National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). It seems that the cause of death entered on death certificates is a very unscientific “loosey goosey” process. To read more, check out: www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2017/04/08/obesity-and-diabetes-kill-more-than-initially-thought-according-to-new-study/#7a6f67a14355. If the research is in fact true, then diabetes is actually the number three cause of death and only surpassed by heart disease and cancer. But there is more! Obesity, which leads to diabetes, is also highly correlated with the onset of heart disease and cancer. Therefore, it very possible that weight gain, leading to obesity, leading to diabetes, may in fact be the leading cause of death in America.
Analyzing the numbers
The latest government statistics indicate that the average American drinks 58 gallons of water per year, which equates to 20 ounces per day.
Statistics published by the advertising media (Ad Age) tell us that the average American consumes 44 ounces of alternative beverages per day, the majority of which contain a significant sugar content.
The most recent government statistics tell us that the average woman in America weighs 168 pounds and the average man weights 196 pounds.
If we accept the most recent recommendation that people should drink at least 1/2 ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight, then the average American woman should be drinking 84 ounces of water per day and the average American man should be drinking 98 ounces of water per day. While it is unlikely that your weight is the exact same as the averages, but the likelihood that you are not drinking enough water is very high.
So what do people do to quench their thirst when they are not drinking sodas and juices? They eat between meals and in the evening when they think they are hungry, but are actually thirsty. Not only is the average American severely hydrated, he/she is filling the void with food and drinks rich in sugar and calories. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Americans have been gaining weight at an alarming rate
A Simple strategy for replacing sugar-based drinks and snacks and over-eating
1) Start the day with a big glass (12oz to 16oz) of water when you first wake up. I drink my first glass after I brush my teeth as it seems to go down easy in the morning because I’m naturally thirsty after a long sleep. I find that the water helps wake me up.
2) Sip water every 15 minutes or so during the day between meals and after dinner in the evening. When I don’t sip water on a steady basis during the day, I will drink a big glass of water mid-morning, and mid-afternoon, and in the evening each day. You will be surprised and delighted to discover between-meal cravings disappear if you drink water . For those that don’t like the taste of water, a calorie-free supplement or additive added to your water works great. I will address some of the additive options in a future article.
3) Drink a big glass of water a few minutes before or preferably during each meal. Ignore the myth that drinking water with a meal dilutes the stomach acid as there is zero scientific evidence supporting the misconception. Statistics show that including a glass of water typically results in eating 75 less calories per meal. You can find lots of studies online supporting the benefits of drinking water with your meals.
I don’t believe in dieting as it just doesn’t work over time. Finding and maintaining your natural body weight includes a number of factors, but none are more important than drinking enough water to adequately replenish the water you expel each day to prevent dehydration.
If you drink seven 16oz glasses of water per day, you will feel better, look better, and do your body a world of good. I find that using a strategy of drinking a glass when I first wake up, another with each of 3 meals during the day, as well as a glass between each meal and a glass in the evening. It may sound like a lot, but it’s not. Just stop drinking sugar-rich alternatives and stop snacking between meals and after dinner.
When I started out writing this article, my intention was to show the benefit of drinking more water. As I progressed through the data, I became more and more disturbed. At 62 years of age, I’m about 30 pounds over my ideal weight despite frequenting the gym several times per week. I have decided that instead of continuing to delude myself about my weight, I’m going to do something about it. I don’t know if I will ever eat as healthy as I should, but I know that I can follow the 3 step strategy listed above.