Water, Water Everywhere: Let’s Get ‘High(Hy)’-drated…

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We all know (or maybe we are) that guy walking around with a gallon jug full of H2O all day, every day.  Or that girl that has a different color water bottle every time you see her and it’s always full.  Just thinking about all that water might make you thirsty or leave you wondering how many trips to the bathroom those guzzlers make on a daily basis.  It may also leave you questioning how much water you should be drinking every day.  This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I get from the clients and athletes that I work with.  Everyone is looking for that ‘magic’ amount and many believe that eight, 8 ounce glasses (64 ounces/day) of the wet stuff is what it takes.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple and the ‘perfect’ amount for you depends on a lot of different factors – body size, climate, sweat rate, exercise, foods eaten, and diet.  So, how important is this water thing and how the heck do you know what you need?  Let’s look at what it takes to keep you afloat and why it’s so important.

Water: What is it good for?

  • Our bodies use the ‘wet stuff’ to moisten and digest food, transport nutrients, get rid of waste, serve as a solvent for biochemical reactions, and dissipate heat (got sweat??).
  •  The average adult body is between 50-65% water (approximately 45 quarts).  Men tend to be more ‘watered down’ than women; 60-65% and 50-60% respectively.
  • Blood is about 93% water, muscle 73% and fat 10%.    During normal metabolic processes the body actually ‘makes’ its own water (about 8-16 oz/day).
  • Losing just 2% of body weight in fluid can decrease physical and mental performance by up to 25%.  If you start feeling groggy in the afternoon – you may just need to ‘wet your whistle’.
  • Feeling a little ‘stopped-up’?  If you’re short on fluids you may also be ‘full of (insert four letter word here)’.  Adequate fluid intake will help you keep the lake adequately stocked with ‘brown trout’…  (In case you’re a little lost – think constipation…)
  • Thirsty?  You feel thirsty when there is an increased concentration of particles in the blood.  You’ll start ‘craving the wave’ once you’ve lost ~1.5-2% of your body weight in fluid.
  • If you’re ‘sweating buckets’ – drink up!  Losing 10% or more of your body weight in sweat can be deadly!!

So, yeah water is kind of important.  Without it you’ll probably make it around 3-5 days before meeting your maker…  But does that mean you need to invest in a ‘set of water bottles’ or start toting a gallon jug of H2O everywhere you go?  Probably not and here’s why:

  • The water you drink isn’t the only fluid that counts toward your ‘quota’.  Many foods are great sources of fluid and drinks like tea and coffee count too!  Coffee and tea are 99.5% water, soup and bone broth count too!  Lettuce and cucumbers are 96% water; broccoli and cauliflower ~91%; spinach and cabbage ~93%; watermelon, grapefruit and cantaloupe fall at around 90-92%; peaches, plums, apricots, blueberries, pears and oranges ~85-87%.  Fresh produce is a great big water party!
  • Consider your climate – is hot or cold, dry or humid?  How much time are you spending outside and how much are you sweating?  All of these factors play into how much guzzling you’ll need to do.
  • If you’re looking for an easy way to monitor your hydration level – Ur-ine luck!!  Yep, you got it – check the pee color.  You’re looking for ‘weak lemonade’ not ‘apple juice’.  If you see neon lights – that multi- or B-vitamin supplement you’re taking is likely to blame.  If it’s a crazy pink/purple and you just ate beets – don’t shed any water-filled tears; you’ll live!  If you see blood get it checked out ASAP; this could be a sign of kidney injury/disease or stones, urinary tract infection, or prostate issues.  And if that still leaves you confused try this quiz or this calculator to help establish a starting point.

Is your tank perfectly fluid-filled, running dry or overflowing?  It’s not too tough to figure out.  For drinking purposes, water is best – soda, diet soda, juices, Crystal Light, etc., are not your fluid friends.  Stick to good old H2O (I like mineral water – it’s kinda bubbly…) and get ‘high(hy)’-drated.

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  1. Graham
    July 11, 2012 at 4:47 am

    I used to drink coke by the gallon and I was a big fat dude. I now drink water by the gallon and I’m fit!

    I’ve got a question for you, Amy. …or anyone else who might have an answer…

    Do you have any recommendations for master’s degrees or other graduate programs that are not just Conventional Wisdom and allow for Paleo? I’ve looked into some “holistic” programs, but they just seem short on science.

    Thanks,

    Graham

  2. Kenny
    July 11, 2012 at 5:46 am

    You also always hear, “once you are thirsty, it’s already too late.” meaning that you should be drinking water often enough that you don’t “get thirsty”.

    I wouldn’t think evolution would have adapted us to that mechanism, though.

    Thoughts?

    • Amy Kubal
      July 11, 2012 at 7:09 am

      Kenny,

      I tend to think of it the same as I do with eating – drink/eat when you’re thirsty/hungry and stop when you’re not thirsty/full. I don’t think we need to over think this stuff. If you want a drink – take one. Use your urine as a marker of hydration status and adjust accordingly!

  3. Benjamin
    July 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I agree with you that we should not over think this stuff. I always recommend to my clients that if you are taking additional supplements or vitamins to ensure that you are compensating for that when it comes to how much water he or she is drinking.

  4. Craig
    July 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    One of my high school football coaches always said, “a true athlete doesn’t pass a drinking fountain without taking a
    drink.”

  5. Trevor Bueckert
    July 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Are there any problems with drinking too much water? Sounds like lots of reesons for not leting the tank get too low, what about over filled?

    • Amy Kubal
      July 12, 2012 at 4:32 am

      Trevor,

      Yes, too much water isn’t a good thing either! It can result in hyponatremia, water toxicity and even death.

  6. CarbSanity
    July 12, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Totally off-topic question/comment, but there’s seems to be no better place for it: Just found out you’ll be attending next year’s Low Carb Cruise, and have to ask: WTF, Robb??!! You have one of the most highly respected ‘brands’ out there; people rightly see you as an authority with credibility to BURN; so why in God’s name would you be associating yourself with Jimmy Moore, weight loss failure extraordinaire, shill for the frankenfoods/dubious supplements industries, and all-around horrible representative of paleo? Anyway, my hope is that it’s not true, but if it is, I know I won’t be alone in incredulously asking why. Thanks in advance, Robb…

    • Robb Wolf
      July 12, 2012 at 8:33 am

      Maybe trying to bring some good information to those folks!? To get them out of the rut of just eating low carb (even if it’s crap packaged food) and thinking about systemic inflammation, gut permeability etc. I see this similarly to the talk I’m giving to the American Heart Association: these folks may need some ass-kicking, just talking to people who agree with or are familiar with what I’m talking about will not affect change. That’s the plan anyway. And, hopefully I can work on my tan!

      let me know if that makes sense.

    • Molly
      July 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      What an incredible ass you just made of yourself. Jimmy Moore is the reason I have found Paleo. He is intelligent enough to think outside the box which obviously is beyond your scope. I just met Jimmy Moore this past weekend. I found him kind, wonderful, intelligent, open minded and like all of us out here willing to try new things to be a more productive and healthier human being. You might want to try some of his humility yourself. Robb, I am very excited to hear that you will be on the cruise. I hope I can save enough money to get to go myself. Would be a blast!!

      • Molly
        July 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

        BTW, Robb, most of us low carbers are not eating the low carb crap anymore and a lot of that information has been learned from Jimmy Moore. I started low carb and adopted WAPF principles to it. I basically eat Paleo now except I add dairy still. That was always one of my biggest hang ups about low carb. I figured if they had to produced from frankenfood then I wasn’t going to eat it. I can live without crackers or bread.

      • Robb Wolf
        July 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

        Molly-
        I’d tread lightly on this. there is significant back story. the Low-carb camp has been slow (IMO) to adopt the nuances of when LC is and is not appropriate.

    • Heidi
      July 13, 2012 at 11:50 am

      I think the low carb cruise is totally appropo for you Robb. I, too got a lot of incredible information via Jimmy Moore. (Introduced to both Chris Kresser and Paul Jaminet for instance) I am extremely grateful for the abundance of information I’ve acquired through his website!

      He’s just trying to educate people, at least in my opinion. Enjoy the cruise…I wish I could go to listen in too!

    • ChrisG
      July 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      Hmmm. You mean the same Jimmy Moore that helped CREATE Robb’s “brand” with softball interviews and glowing book review?

      I never heard Jimmy say a bad word about anybody and I find it disgusting to see cheap shots like this. Is it so difficult to make your point with a little civility? The paleo community is getting to be as bad as the “skeptic” community.

  7. Shane Thurlow
    July 12, 2012 at 9:18 am

    My PhD is looking at hydration, fluid shifts, thirst in team sports. There is a lot of conflicting research out there. Tim Noakes (Author of “Waterlogged” gives a good account). Basically, drink to the dictates of thirst, if you are thirsty you are dehydrated, but don’t over hydrate.

    • Amy Kubal
      July 12, 2012 at 9:23 am

      I completely agree! Drink when you’re thirsty – don’t force it down because someone tells you that you need a certain amount! Listen to your body!

  8. Clever Bever
    July 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Dont forget about the Hydration test from Kstarr! Press firmly on the front flat part of your shin bone for 10 secs. if it sinks in you’re hydrated to a certain extent!! not exactly scientific but its a good visual tool!

    • Amy Kubal
      July 12, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Good Call! Thanks for mentioning that! :)

  9. Jay
    July 12, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I have a question or two about hydration and electrolytes. I work outdoors, workout at least 3 days/wk, and sweat a LOT, especially in this summer heat. What kind of fluids are good to replace electrolytes with beyond coconut water? I’ve heard chicken broth is an option, but how much would be too much in terms of sodium content?

    • Amy Kubal
      July 13, 2012 at 4:42 am

      Coconut water is a great option and weak chicken broth can work. As far as sodium content – that depends a lot on individual factors. Are you a ‘salty’ sweater? And a heavy does of sodium is going to make you thirstier. I would stick with coconut water (add a pinch or two of salt to it) and plain water if I were you!

      • Heidi
        July 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

        Amy, there was just a blurb about coconut water on the news, so this is a timely topic.

        I’ve been giving coconut water for a not so healthy family member as an alternative to just plain water for quite a few months now. The reason he’s trying it is because he has a tendency to ‘waste’ his salt (when his salt levels become too low he tends to seizure). He seems to be doing a bit better with the coconut water. Of course this is a completely different scenario to a healthy person or an athlete, but the conventional dietician in the report stated that coconut water is a bit off on the potassium/salt ratio and also a bit low on the carbs (for athletes)

        What do you think about the potassium/sodium ratio? I’m not asking specific advice about this ‘sick’ person (though I’m thinking about adding a dash of sea salt to the cocowater), just about the ratio in general.

        • Amy Kubal
          July 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

          The NA/K ratio is important and I would suggest adding a pinch or two of salt to the coconut water to balance things out – especially if low sodium is a concern.

  10. Mike
    July 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I keep wondering lately if there are better ways to hydrate than plain old water. It seems like a wasted opportunity to get some nutrition. Should hydration, and water, be synonymous. Can we do better than water?

    I am trying to increase my intake of fermented juices. I have been making beet kvass. I recently made some fermented cherry juice to use some cherries. I would like to start making some komboucha to get some more antioxidants and short chain fatty acids.

    Is water only a good choice if you are too lazy to make something with nutritional value?

    • Amy Kubal
      July 13, 2012 at 4:38 am

      Fruits and Veggies are great water sources! Eat up!

  11. JayJay
    July 13, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Whats the take on timing of water? Away from meals for example?
    I’ve heard this is generally better as it doesn’t dilute enzymes when eating, and also read that water on an empty stomach can allow it to go straight to the fascia… Is this correct?

    Also what about preparation? My grandad always use to boil his water when he was at home and kept a jug in the fridge (though I’ve heard this can concentrate some of the added chemicals?), I try and use a cheap (brita) filter when at home, though not sure of the total benefit. Does anybody here have/use one of those more expensive filters?

  12. Jenni
    July 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Remember not to drink too much too as this may lead to sodium depletion see http://www.stumptuous.com/waterlogged-tim-noakes

    • Amy Kubal
      July 15, 2012 at 6:06 am

      If you drink when you’re thirsty and don’t force it you should be fine!

  13. Frank Folino
    July 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I like all the same questions asked in a different form. BUT! How about this one, what do I do if im never thirsty? Lol

  14. Craig Valency
    July 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Great post Amy! Very timely for me since, I got moderate kidney damage by not drinking enough water since going Paleo 9 months ago. In an effort to be more “green” and avoid those nasty xeno-estrogens, I switched to a faucet water filter, and bought a glass water bottle. I also avoided drinking water with meals, as Robb had advised, to aid with digestion, which was especially important to me due to severe GERD symptoms. Unfortunately, I hated the glass bottle, I would forget it at work, it was impossible to drink from in the car, etc. So basically I increased my protein intake and drastically dropped my water intake. Not good! Since then, I make sure to drink a half liter of water with lemon before breakfast and then drink between meals. I don’t feel like a wilted flower anymore, and I will have blood work done soon to re-check the kidneys. I have had tremendous success since switching to a paleo diet. I got rid of my IBS & GERD and leaned out like crazy. I used to be a vegetarian and felt like crap. I used to preach the plant based diet mantra along with the virtues of carrying a gallon of water everywhere you go. I think I was rebelling too much in my paleo zeal and water became a casualty. Thanks for a great site, blogs and excellent podcasts!

    • JayJay
      September 23, 2012 at 8:15 am

      Craig, out of interest how much protein/meat were you eating?

  15. gary
    July 31, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I usually just go for the ole urine taste test to verify hydration levels

  16. Phil Firsenbaum
    August 5, 2012 at 3:57 am

    As a calcium oxalate stone former I’m wondering if there’s any efficacy to the thought of drinking alkaline water to go with my (mostly) paleo diet. I’m eating much more meat (grass-fed) whenever possible, and other high protein foods.
    I believe that Lynda Frassetto, kidney specialist, advocates this approach.

    • Robb Wolf
      August 5, 2012 at 6:03 am

      I think a pinch of sodium bicarbonate is a fine idea in this case. Take away from meals to avoid neutralizing stomach acid.

    • MS. THING
      June 6, 2014 at 8:56 am

      NEVER KNW U WERE A MEAT EATER!

  17. MS. THING
    June 6, 2014 at 9:04 am

    & THAT IT CAN POSSIBLE B GOOD 4 U

  18. Robbert
    October 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.

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