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FEATURES May 28 2013 6:45PM
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Water: How Much Of It Do We Actually Need?

by Wendy of Food Heaven Made Easy

Water is a basic and necessary substance for life, and drinking adequate amounts provide a plethora of health benefits. Water is needed for digestion, absorption, circulation, and regulation of body temperature. Water also helps maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails by ensuring hydration. These are just a few of the benefits offered, which may have to do with why we are constantly being told that we need to drink more water. The rule of thumb that is constantly pushed onto us is 8 glasses of water a day. Although it’s important to stay hydrated, over hydration can pose serious health risks. Taking in more water than you actually need can increase your total blood volume, which can cause stress to your heart and vessels. Your kidneys also have to put in more work to filter out the excess fluid, which can lead to irreversible kidney damage. Water requirements are influenced by a number of factors, and it’s important to be mindful of what these are so that you don’t become over hydrated.

Factors that Influence Water Intake: Exercise, Environment, Health Conditions, Nutrition

Exercise:
If you’re engaging in any kind of physical activity that makes you sweat, you’re going to need more water to compensate for fluid loss. It is recommended that for individuals engaging in moderate to high intensity exercise, 1-2 cups of water are taken for every hour of exercising. The higher the intensity, the more fluids your body will need.

Environment:
If you are in hot or humid climates, you will need more water to regulate your body temperature and to replace fluids lost through sweat. High altitudes can also impact your fluid needs. I remember going to a point in Bolivia that was over 3,000 meters above sea level- I was constantly urinating. If you’re traveling to altitudes higher than 2,500 meters, make sure you drink additional water to account for urine fluid loss.

Health Conditions:
Depending on what health condition you have, you may need to increase or decrease fluid intake. Increased fluid needs may be needed for individuals with constipation, diarrhea, fever, low blood pressure, hemorrhage, and hyperventilation. Decreased fluid needs may be needed for individuals with edema, kidney failure, liver failure, and elevated blood pressure.

Nutrition:
People tend to forget that many foods are packed with water, especially fruits and vegetables. The water content in these foods can also count towards meeting your daily needs. Foods highest in water content include dark leafy greens, melons, apples, cucumbers, and tomatoes- just to name a few.

How to Calculate Fluid Needs:

Okay, let’s get ready to do some math. The average adult requires around 11-14 milliliters of water per pound of body weight. So let’s say you weigh 125 pounds; you would multiply 125 by 11, and then 125 by 14. That would give you a range of 1375-1750 milliliters. How many milliliters are in a cup? 237. Divide your range by 237 and you will get around 6-7 cups of water for a person weighing 125 pounds. If you weigh more, you’ll need more, and if you weigh less, you’ll need less. If you rather skip out on the calculations, aim to drink 6 cups of water per day (this doesn’t include water-rich foods.) If you feel thirsty, drink more water. Your body will usually send thirst signals when it’s time to take in more water. Forcing yourself to drink more water offers no health benefits, and can actually lead to complications. Use your urine as an indicator- if your urine is a pale yellow, this indicates proper hydration. The more yellow your urine is, the more concentrated it is, which means you need to drink more water. If you’re just peeing clear fluids, it’s time for you to chill out on the water intake.

Wendy Lopez is the co-founder of Food Heaven Made Easy, a monthly cooking and nutrition web-series that demonstrates how to prepare culturally diverse, delicious, quick and cost conscious meals at home.

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