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The Truth About Water

02 July 2023

One of the most common questions that I get is “How much water should I drink?”.  I’ll be honest, I don’t know.  The truth is nobody really knows.  The National Institute of Medicine says 13 cups (104 oz) for men, 9 cups (72 oz) for women, but this is merely a guideline because each person’s exact fluid needs vary literally every day.  There are SO many factors that contribute to how much water we need, that it would be impossible to say exactly how much one person requires for even one day. Smaller/larger body size, age, activity level, heat index, humidity of the environment, illnesses with fever, nausea or vomiting, history of kidney disease or kidney stones, alcohol and caffeine consumption, medications, etc. are all things that influence how much we should be drinking. 

So, what do I tell my patients?  The Obesity Medicine Association has a great mnemonic of “60, 60, 60”.  It stands for their recommendation of at least 60 grams of protein, 60 minutes of exercise, and 60 ounces of water daily.  I’ve been using this for myself for quite a while and found it to be very helpful as a baseline.  Now, there’s always the question of “Can someone get too much water?”.  Yes, there is a condition known as water toxicity where someone can take in too much water, but most of us aren’t in danger of this.  Generally staying somewhere between 60-120 oz per day will keep most people healthy and well hydrated.  Additionally, there may be special circumstances surrounding long distance athletes, the elderly, those with dementia, and certain other conditions, but for the average healthy adult doing moderate activity, stick to 60-120 oz per day.

“Why is water always recommended for people that are dieting?”  Several reasons… First, it takes up room in your stomach.  Second, it’s easy for your body to mistake thirst for hunger.  Third, much of eating and drinking is situational and we often eat and drink more in the presence of others (friends and family).  Additionally, dehydration can contribute to fatigue, mood changes like irritability and depression, achy joints, and increase the risk of certain diseases/infections like UTI’s.  When we’re tired, cranky or don’t feel good, we tend to eat more bad stuff.

“What do I do if I don’t like plain water?”  First, try it lukewarm.  This may sound strange, but studies have shown that people drink more when water is room temperature than when it’s cold.  If plain water still isn’t your favorite, consider infused or sparkling water.  You can make either option at home on your own.  Slicing lemons, limes, cucumbers, mint, ginger into a large pitcher and letting it sit in the refrigerator is a cheap and easy way to make water livelier.  Other options include using herbal teas or tisanes to add some flavor.  However, stay away from the fake sugar additives as they aren’t good for your body or your taste buds.

I’ve recently become a huge fan of sparkling water, but this has not always been the case in the past.  My first experience with sparkling water was over 20 years ago during my first trip to Germany.  I was part of a college exchange program and an American friend, and I were out playing soccer with some girls.  After the game, we were parched and one of the girls offered us a sip of her water bottle.  Not expecting it to be sparkling, I almost spit it out as I took a big gulp.  We both agreed that the Germans were insane to be drinking something like that after a soccer game and we quickly hurried home to get some water from the tap.  However, they were quite used to it and found it to be very refreshing!  Fast forward many years (and many tries) later, I now love sparkling water.  In fact, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur and can tell you that Pellegrino, Perrier and La Croix do not hold a candle to Topo Chico.   Topo Chico is a sparkling water out of Mexico that has a very robust carbonation and an excellent flavor profile that I found by accident on my last trip to Mexico.  There is even a difference between Topo Chico out of a plastic bottle versus a glass bottle (glass wins!).  I now make it a point to try new sparkling waters wherever I go to see what tastes the best.  Vichy Catalan was my most recent experiment and is a Spanish sparkling water that has 27 different minerals and comes out of the ground at 140°F.  People swear by the flavor, but it was a bit too tinny for my taste.  I encourage you to try different sparkling waters if this something you haven’t done before as they are not all created equal.  You may be shocked at what you discover.  At home, I purchased a soda stream that I use daily during the summer with some lemon or lime added.  It’s no Topo Chico, but it gets the job done. 

So, as we make our way through the hottest days of summer, try to get in at least 60oz of water per day as a baseline and remember, it doesn’t have to be boring.  If you’re willing to experiment, you might discover a new taste for water!