I am often asked about how much water one should consume each day.
For most people, the answer is straightforward: Drink enough to satisfy your thirst. But that’s a bit overly simplistic, so let’s explain in more detail:
Water is a vital bodily component. An average adult contains about 55% water by weight, and an infant, about 75%. So, to maintain this large amount, an adequate daily supply is necessary, especially in the summer months when needs are higher.
Sources of water for consumption are plentiful: plain water tops the list, but it’s present in most beverages and foods as well. Fruits like watermelon, grapes, etc. are excellent sources of water. But as I have mentioned before, avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and so-called “sports” drinks like Gatorade unless you are involved in prolonged strenuous activities in hot weather: This latter issue is noted at the following: lhttp://www.mortontavel.com/2015/06/17/. Water content in beverages such as coffee and tea counts toward this total as well.
An adequate intake of fluid from all food and beverages for men over age 50 is 3.7 liters (almost 4 quarts) daily, which includes about 13 cups from beverages and food sources combined. For women in this age range, this figure is 2.7 liters (slightly less than 3 quarts) a day, with about 9 cups coming from water and other sources. Most people actually consume that much, despite the popular concept that one should consume 8 glasses of liquids daily. Water contained in foods makes up to about 22% of the average individual’s water intake. According to national survey data, men actually drink a combined equivalent of about 11 cups of beverages per day, and women, about 10 cups.
The kidneys play a key role in regulating the body’s fluid balance, working best when supplied with adequate water and being more stressed in the presence of dehydration.
Since the brain is about 75% water, staying hydrated helps this organ function as well. Although research on the effects of dehydration on the brain is inconsistent, short-term impacts seem to enhance mood and alertness.
In some forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis (the most common form), you can help fight the associated inflammation by staying hydrated. The Arthritis Foundation recommends “prehydrating”—drinking water before you exercise, not just after you’ve worked up a sweat—to help people with arthritis engage in physical activity with less discomfort.
WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING?
It’s important to consume enough fluid from all sources to keep your body hydrated, but claims that drinking even larger quantities can enhance health are unsupported by science. So the idea that there are such things as “water cures” is a myth. One exception is that strong evidence links good hydration with reduced risk of kidney stones. So if you have had such a problem, or are at risk for any reason, then extra water makes sense.
As we age, the body’s needs may require more than is dictated simply by thirst alone because it’s easy to miss warning signs that may warn of dehydration. As a general rule, if you’re over 50, try to drink regularly even when not thirsty—an extra glass with each meal—especially in hot weather.
Extra fluid can help prevent constipation, especially if combined with plenty of fiber, but fluid alone is probably not very helpful.
Overall, for total hydration, plain water is the best choice, but also useful are fruit juices, coffee, tea and milk. As mentioned, sugary soft drinks and the like should be avoided, especially since they are major contributors to the obesity epidemic, as previously presented: (http://www.mortontavel.com/2015/12/15/).
I might add that bottled water is generally no better—and sometimes worse—than that taken from most taps, but that was reviewed in a previous post (http://www.mortontavel.com/2014/06/10/).
In conclusion, although there is no need to constantly guzzle water, there is reason to insure that you’re getting enough, especially it you’re over 50. So this summer and all year long, help yourself by staying healthy and hydrated and avoid the extra calories of sugary drinks. Opt instead for the inexpensive and ubiquitous choice of plain water out of the tap!