From water bottled around the world to sports drinks to home filtration systems, drinking enough water is an industry. “Eight glasses a day” and “half of your body weight in ounces” are hydration philosophies religiously lived by. The commonly-referred-to benefits of drinking water range from glowing skin to weight loss to stress management to post-workout muscle recovery. Despite the persistent reminders, there are common reasons many still don’t take in enough water.
Lack of Thirst
The good news is that a person who isn’t thirsty is probably already getting enough water; the flip side is that the body’s hydration levels are inconsistent. Food contains a high level of water, meaning that a proper diet contributes quite a bit to water intake. Food alone, however, is not enough.
In 1945, the US Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council wrote: “A suitable allowance for adults is 2.5 litres daily in most instances. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” Two and a half liters works out to roughly 64 ounces (eight glasses) a day, and so was born the first incarnation of how to drink water. The last sentence stated that “most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods,” so although eight individual glasses alongside the food you eat may not be necessary for the average lifestyle, the word “most” implies that some water on the side is needed.
Overloading on Other Beverages
Truth be told, other drinks often just taste better than water. Depending on the time of day, tea, coffee, soda, and weaker alcoholic drinks such as beer are easy go-to beverages when thirst strikes. These all have the reputation of dehydrating a person since they are diuretics, but diuretics simply stimulate the production of urine and don’t necessarily dehydrate the body.
The volume consumed of these drinks is what tends to be the problem. The basis for all of these drinks is still water, so they can actually contribute to the daily water total if consumed in moderation. One cup of tea or coffee can encourage a healthy level of digestion and waste production while adding to the body’s water total – basically replacing the water lost through waste with the water gained through the drink. Drinking cup after eight ounce cup of coffee, which can mean more than one large coffee (normally a 16 ounce cup) from a coffee shop chain, is what can overwork the body and cause problems.
Good Water is Expensive
Yes, it is. Water collection, water purification, plant operations and maintenance, and shipping all drive up the price of what should be a fairly simple commodity to obtain. Transportation, housing, food, clothing, and other necessities are also expensive, but people buckle down and work hard to have them because they are essential. High-cost essentials are often viewed as investments, not purchases, so the same can be applied to relatively less-expensive necessities as well.
All, but especially those who exercise regularly or have physically demanding jobs, should have a reusable water bottle (glass is the way to go, by the way). Water-filtering pitchers and filtration systems can offset the costs of good quality bottled water, providing nearly the same benefits. Get in the habit of filling the water bottle or pitcher on sight. Even if it’s not filled to the brim, fill it to a reasonable point and immediately take a few sips. The body’s thirst trigger is often the only reminder relied upon for water consumption, but even when not thirsty, a routine of drinking water is important.
The body is about 70% water, but a dehydrated body can go down to about 40-50%. Common signs of dehydration include dark urine, dry skin, headaches, and fatigue. Muscle tissue is about 75% water, which explains why dehydration can reduce muscle strength. Dehydration also shrinks muscle cells, leads to protein breakdown, and can have direct adverse effects on heart and kidney health.