I have been thinking about water and staying hydrated quite a bit recently. It seems like an odd thing to think about now that the weather is cooler. We aren’t out in the sun and getting sweaty. So, dehydration risk is less, right?
It is true that people are less likely to get dehydrated in the winter. However, since it isn’t at the forefront of our mind, we can easily become under-hydrated. And there are benefits to avoiding under-hydration.
First let’s look at what water does in our body. It keeps us cool, both via sweat and other mechanisms in our body. It provides the liquid base for blood and other bodily fluids (including fluid in our cells). It helps flush waste out of our bodies, through urine and in feces. Everything in your body uses water in some form. We lose it in sweat and in breathing. We gain it by eating and drinking.
The benefits of drinking enough water are bountiful. Less burden on your kidneys to flush out waste. Without enough water, they have to work hard concentrating all the waste into your urine. It keeps blood volume and blood pressure in check. It keeps your skin more soft and less flaky. It helps you not be constipated. It helps deliver nutrients throughout your body.
So, how much do you need? The general rule of thumb is most people need about 30 ml of water per kilogram of body weight. That can be a little tricky to figure out. You need to know how much you weigh (example 150 lbs), divide that by 2.2 to get kilograms (68 kg), then multiply by 30 (2040 ml). That gives you millimeters, easily converted to liters (about 2, round for simplicity). For those of us used to “cups”, you have to figure 1 cup is about 250 ml (8 cups).
That’s a lot of math and thinking for everyday. You can figure it out once, and then aim for that each day. For our example above, that came out to 8 cups, which happens to be the generic recommendation of 8 cups of water per day that we have all heard for years.
Or, you can simply avoid math all together. Watch your urine – is it dark yellow or more like pale lemonade? Pay attention to how often you urinate. If it is only once or twice a day, you should drink more. Are your lips and skin constantly dry? Drink more. Think periodically about if you are thirsty. We all ignore our thirst response so often, it takes practice to really become in tune with it again. Also, as we age, our thirst response is less and less sensitive and can’t be relied on.
Water really is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. Calorie free and great for you. Any liquid will add to your total. Milk, juice, soda, coffee, tea, soup, ice cream, popsicle, and gelatin are some. Some foods are higher in water than others (think of eating watermelon vs eating a cracker). Mix it up, and getting enough fluid is easier.
Happy drinking this winter!