Astonishingly enough, hydration seems to be a little understood aspect of the human body. In a world where surgeons are already transplanting whole human faces, no one seems to have actual facts about hydration / dehydration. Oh, there is definitely quite a lot of information on the subject as we are constantly bombarded with warnings on dehydration. We've been told all our lives that it's good for us to drink x amount of water a day. But these questions remain. How much water is enough? Is it possible to drink too much water?

The questions remain because while there are answers to these questions, all the answers are not only different but vary wildly and sometimes even contradict each other. Here is a simple test. Go to your favorite search engine and search on the following keyword phrase "how much water should I drink". Go to the first ten sites that are listed and I bet each site has a different answer. When I did this same search, I came up with the following results.

Daily recommended water intakes: 48-64 oz (medical site), 64-100 oz (dietician), 84.5 oz (British Government), 128 oz (professional athletic advisor).

!!! Okay so which is right? Let's make it more complicated. Approximately 60% of sites I checked said that you should not wait until you are thirsty to drink water, that in fact becoming thirsty meant you were already dehydrating. These sites all agree that having a dry mouth is one of the last signs of dehydration before other symptoms such as dizziness and confusion appear (not including dry mouth from sleeping with your mouth open). But the other 40% web sites say that you don't need to be concerned with drinking water until you become thirsty and that dry mouth is not a sign of dehydration at all. Going even farther, it is now accepted that it IS possible to drink TOO MUCH water. The condition is called water intoxication and coincidentally has nearly the same symptoms as dehydration (dizziness, confusion, etc). But there is no common ground for agreement on how much water it would take to cause this condition either. Certainly the sites recommending you drink only 48 oz of water a day would be shocked at someone consuming three times that amount!

Finally, we've all been told that our bodies are composed of 90% water. But the sites I visited couldn't agree on this either! Figures ranged from 40% to 90%!

Clearly we have a lot of bad information or inaccurately represented information being pushed upon us from what should be respectable, authoritative sites. For instance, many sites that discuss water intoxication call it hyponatremia. But this is incorrect, as hyponatremia actually means “low sodium content”. Hyponatremia is caused by excessive sweating without the replacement of the electrolyte sodium which can not be gotten in any significant amount from water. That’s what sports drinks like Gatorade / Powerade are for. Hyponatremia can also be caused by water intoxication, when too much water is consumed and the effective sodium balance becomes too low. The point is: how can we create a plan for daily water consumption if even the people who are supposed to know can't agree? Let's try to start with the very few things these 'experts' can agree on and try to build from there.

People need water to live. That one was easy, right?
Inactive people need less water than active people.
Living in a hotter or dryer climate calls for more water.
Activity calls for more water.
Activity in a hotter or dryer climate calls for yet more water.

First of all, just about everything you drink is mostly water and many foods contain a lot of water. In fact you might get as much as 48ounces of water a day just from whatever liquid you drink with meals, plus one or two glasses of water during the day, plus whatever water you get from the food you eat. Start keeping a log of everything you drink during the day, what it is and how much. Then you can start developing an idea of how much water you actually drink. Now...

Let's look at a hydration from a non-exercising point of view first. Here is a down to earth way to identify your daily water needs, watch your urine color. Don't count the first elimination of the day because that urine has been sitting in your body throughout the night and is stale. Watch for urine color during the daytime. In general your urine should be clear. Of course, strong vitamins discolor urine so check at least a few hours after you have taken your vitamins. If your urine is never clear (or reasonably so) you very likely aren't drinking enough water. Start drinking an extra glass of water during the day. Keep track with your log and keeps notes on your urine color if you wish. Keep adding another glass of water a day until your urine begins to clear up. Of course in the beginning you will end up going to the bathroom a lot more often, but your body will get used to the new level of water intake and your trips to the bathroom will lessen. Yes, in the beginning you may feel more bloated but you aren’t really and no, you will not become more bloated over time. In fact you may find you LOSE FAT.

Here are some interesting side effects of drinking more water:
increased clarity of thought
sharper memory
better math skills (yes!)
softer skin
fewer muscle cramps
etc etc.

I think you'll find that drinking 48 to 64 ounces of water a day, including the water in your coffee, soda, fruit drinks, beer etc will cover your needs. And in most cases of people I have talked to, this meant drinking an additional one or two 16 ounce glasses of water a day. Very easy to do!

Now, we can use our earlier list to work out all sorts of things. If you need 48 to 64 ounces of water a day while INactive, you need more while active. Any physical activity (gardening, mowing, weight-lifting, jogging, house-cleaning etc) should be accompanied with another 16 ounces of water. Any of those activities taking place outside in hotter or dryer climates should be accompanied with another 16 ounces of a drink that replenishes your electrolytes PER HOUR. So in my case, I make a POINT of drinking at least 35 ounces of water and Gatorade / Powerade per hour of cycling in the Florida Summer heat, or mowing the grass for that matter. And if you add it up, on those days I generally drink 100 ounces or water or more.

There you have it! The strange thing is, perhaps all those web sites with different advice on water intake are right. The problem is that none of them set down the rules for their advice. Could they have meant 48 ounces for inactive people, 64 ounces for active people, 84.5 ounces for active people spending some time outdoors in the heat and 100+ ounces for active people on the day they are exercising outdoors? That is what it seems to work out to be.

Remember that for active people especially in hot / dry climates, water alone is not enough. You must replace your electrolytes to remain healthy. And keep your log, watch you intake, make sure you are taking in at least the minimum for your activity level. Use your urine stream as an indicator. Drink the appropriate extra water during periods of activity. Once you have it all down-pat, stop keeping the log and get on with your life knowing you are drinking enough water to optimize your health!
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