Too Little Water — or Too Much? How to Determine Your Goldilocks Hydration Level
Many people are primarily concerned with making sure they drink enough water every day and avoid dehydration — and for good reason. The modern diet is filled with high-sodium, high-sugar drinks that don’t appropriately hydrate the body, and the symptoms of dehydration can be severe, to include dizziness, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fever and even seizures. It’s not a bad idea for people to carry a large water bottle to encourage the consumption of more water.
However, there is such a thing as too much water. Water intoxication, a condition more accurately called hyponatremia, results from consuming a large volume of water in a short period, which doesn’t give the body enough time to filter the liquid out. As a result, the water causes the body’s levels of sodium to drop, which can be fatal.
So you don’t want to drink too little water — but you also don’t want to drink too much. What is the right amount of water for you? Read on to find out.
Know the Standards
Let’s start by establishing that water consumption standards aren’t ideal. Every person is a different size, lives in a different climate, boasts a different metabolism and performs different levels of activity. That means that there is no accurate, one-size-fits-all prescription for the right amount of water to drink in a day. You could need much more or much less water than any of these standards.
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard that you need to drink eight glasses of water per day — but this figure is hardly helpful considering that “a glass” is not a standard unit of measure. Research from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that the ideal daily fluid intake is about 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women, but that is for all types of beverages as well as food, not just water. Health hackers advocate drinking even more water, perhaps more than a gallon per day — so what’s right?
Standards are a good jumping-off point for water consumption, and they tend to help people drive themselves to prioritize drinking water over drinking less healthful beverages. Still, if you want to optimize your physical and mental performance, you need to know the exact amount of water that is right for you — or your “Goldilocks” water intake.
Know Your Body
Aside from counting the dirty water glasses in your sink, there are several, more personal ways to determine whether you are getting enough water. Here are a few tests to try right now:
Check your pee. Nature should call you between seven and 10 times per day, and your urine should be clear with only a slight tinge of yellow. However, this isn’t a perfect test; many medications increase or decrease your need to urinate, and medicines and foods can change urine’s color.
Consider your digestion. Water is an integral component of moving food through your digestive tract, so if you are frequently bloated or constipated, a lack of enough water might be your issue.
Pinch yourself. The skin on the back of your hand is thin, which means it suffers first from dehydration. If when you pinch your skin there it doesn’t immediately spring back into its normal shape, you are dehydrated.
Feel yourself. Throughout the day, you should check in with your body to see if you need more water. If your eyes and mouth are dry — and even if your hands and skin are dry — you might need a drink.
Check your cravings. Doctors will tell you that thirst is the best indication that you need to drink more water — but unfortunately, many people have a hard time distinguishing thirst from other cravings. If you have near-insatiable cravings for sugar, your body might just be screaming for more water.
When you can identify these symptoms, your body is already dehydrated. Thus, your Goldilocks water intake will eliminate all these problems and put you in a better mood. However, you should avoid slamming bottles of water while you work out; during high-activity periods, your body tries to conserve water, so it is then that you are most at-risk for water poisoning or hyponatremia. Consuming a steady stream of water throughout the day, in the form of sips rather than gulps, will surely help you find the perfect amount of water for you.