We are all made up primarily of water. In fact, about 60% of our body weight is water. Water is crucial in the proper functioning of all of our physiological systems from flushing out harmful toxins to facilitating the travel of nutrients from one location to another. We are constantly losing water through processes like sweating, breathing, and excretion.
The Institute of Medicine advises men to drink about 3 liters (13 cups) of water daily while women should drink about 2.2 liters (9 cups) of water daily. Another way to calculate how much water you should drink, is to use the “half your body weight” rule. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink half that number in ounces (75 ounces of water). One cup is defined as 8 ounces of water. So, a 100 pound person should drink about 9.4 cups of water daily. However, these guidelines for adequate intake of water will varying depending on individual lifestyles. For example, an athlete that is constantly exercising or a person that lives in a hot, humid environment will need more water on a daily basis. Intuitively, this makes sense. You are losing fluids and electrolytes more quickly as you sweat more.
Surprisingly, thirst and dry mouth should not be used as accurate indicators of when to drink. In fact, once you already feel these symptoms, your body is already dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to a host of negative symptoms including: fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and weak muscles. One effective way of determining whether or not you are drinking enough water is to examine the color of your urine. A dark yellow color indicates dehydration while a clearer, lighter color indicates proper hydration.
The wide-range of benefits of drinking water are well-known. Research has shown that sufficient water intake results in a better balance of body fluids, weight loss, healthier looking skin, and better bowel function. Water is also beneficial for your teeth. Water can wash away food debris and acidic residue left behind on teeth which keeps saliva levels high. High saliva levels are necessary for combating cavities. Furthermore, water can dilute high-sugar drinks and mitigate some of its harmful effects.
Image credit: http://www.wellness.uci.edu/images/womandrinkingwater.jpg