You know what the advertisers say and what the folktales recommend, but what are the facts about fluid intake?Do you really need eight (or 12 or 20) glasses of water a day? Is that in addition to any coffee, tea, soda or milk you drink? Can you die from not drinking enough water?
We all know we should get plenty of fluids, and most of us know we don’t get enough of the right kind. Beyond those considerations, though, is a world of superstition, wishful thinking and misunderstandings. I don’t claim to have the corner on the truth concerning water, but I have researched the subject considerably.
Here are some important observations about a critical fluid: water.
- How much water should you drink every day? You need as much fluid as it takes to maintain optimum health—and that varies from individual to individual and from day to day. Sweat a lot and you need more fluid. You must replace the fluid you lose, but beyond that there is no set amount required. If you are thirsty: drink. Even if you are not thirsty, drink. See the Mayo Clinic site for more information about dehydration.
- The general rule, if you want to know whether you are dehydrated, is to observe your urine—if it is dark, you need fluid. If it is clear, you are fine. Normally, dark urine will clear after you have rehydrated yourself. Again, that is a general rule. Dark urine can indicate kidney problems as well. See a doctor for a medical diagnosis.
- Drinks other than water can come with a mixed blessing. They may cause you to urinate more (lose more water) or be packed with sodium (cause you to retain water). But they do count as fluid. The best thing to drink is good, clean water. But how often do you do the best thing for you? I thought so.
- If you are in the state known as hyponatremia, drinking too much water can kill you. If you are severely dehydrated (have sweated profusely, suffered from diarrhea, or have vomited a bunch), you need to replenish your electrolytes along with the fluid. Failure to do so can bring on real trouble. There are several sports drinks and pharmacy solutions that contain electrolytes. No marathon runner has ever died from dehydration—but many have succumbed to hyponatremia.