Drinking Water

thomas-andrewsThomas Andrews: The pumps will buy you time, but minutes only. From this moment on, no matter what we do, Titanic will founder.

Ismay: But this ship can’t sink!

Thomas Andrews: She is made of iron, sir. I assure you, she can. And she will.

The movie Titanic was an epic story of love, disaster, and too much water. Water indeed is unparalleled in its ability to both give life and to destroy it. Today, however, we’ll try to talk about its more positive aspects and specifically, how much is just the right amount for us.

Quick show of hands: how much water should a person drink each day? Whoa! That’s a lot of hands. Apparently everyone knows the answer to this question! You there, in the front. What’s your answer? “Eight glasses a day!” Ooo… good. That’s almost right. Let me splain…

water-glassThe origins of the “eight glasses a day” rule are murky and it’s not the only water rule-of-thumb. My personal favorite is “one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day.” Oh really! Let’s see how this one plays out. I’m around 207 pounds right now, so that’s 207 ounces per day, or nearly twenty-six glasses. Twenty-six! That’s like taking a one ounce shot, every seven minutes, for twenty four straight hours.

If we all drank that much water the economy would come to a screeching halt. No one could get anything done, being stuck in the bathroom twenty-four/seven. (Might be a good time to invest in wastewater treatment facilities, though.)

So I did a bit of searching and came across a study by Heinz Valtin published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology in 2002. It was entitled “Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.” Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 × 8”? He searched high and low for the origins of this strangely universal recommendation. About the closest he came was a comment found in 1945 from the National Research Council:

A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 milliliter for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.

What I find most fascinating is that we always assume “water” means “glasses of water”. But take another look at that last sentence. Once the dihydrogen monoxide (yes, that’s good ol’ H2O) goes down your esophagus, your body doesn’t know or even care where it actually came from. Sure, drinking bottle after bottle of water is easy and (mostly) painless. But there’s water in coffee, in tea, and in diet sodas, too. There’s water in carrots, and apples, and in cheese. There’s water in bread, in lunch meat, and chocolate cake. Ironically there’s still small amounts of water in dehydrated foods.

So how much water should you have? Well, the answer is: enough. It’s different if you’re active or sedentary. It’s different if you’re working at a desk or under a 97 degree sun all day. It’s different if you’re young or old. Like so many things in life, there isn’t a “one size fits all” amount, in spite of how desperately we cling to such beliefs.

We actually have a pretty good built-in mechanism for keeping ourselves properly hydrated. Just don’t ignore it. Like right now. My body is saying, “More diet cola with lime! More diet cola with lime.”

I must comply.

16 Responses to “Drinking Water”

E said
November 6, 2008 at 12:31 am

Hahah, love the Titanic reference.

Great info, we all seem to want clear-cut health recommendations but unfortunately they’re rarely that straightforward.

Laura Brandon said
November 6, 2008 at 12:52 am

i drink 256 ounces of water a day, or 32 glasses. i go to the restroom about every hour or so. once you get used to it, it’s just easy. i don’t feel right if i drink less water than that.

Nick said
November 6, 2008 at 1:48 am

Being that I weigh 160 lbs, that’s 20 glasses of water if I go by that oz per lb rule, but I drink between 24 and 32 glasses a day (1 1/2 to 2 gallons), so it’s definitely possible!

I only started doing this a few years ago but now I’m hooked, it feels odd if I don’t drink enough. From what I know and from what my body tells me, all that water is helping digest my food and absorb the nutrients and pass them through my body, like a well-oiled machine =). Although you do have to take the good with the bad, hitting up the restroom every 1 1/2 hours isn’t for everyone but you do get used to it.

Christy said
November 6, 2008 at 3:44 am

VERY interesting. I think I am going to start eating more cake just to make sure I get in enough water each day….haha. Just teasing!
I drink any where from 1.5-3 liters of water a day. If I drink alcohol I try to make sure I have closer to 3 liters to help out my system stay on track during my weight loss efforts.

Megan said
November 6, 2008 at 6:31 am

I have always been perplexed by the whole water thing. Great post!!!

dragonmamma said
November 6, 2008 at 11:38 am

If eight daily glasses of water were required for health, I’d be a dessicated husk by now.

As far as I’m concerned, the primary purpose of water is as a delivery system for caffeine.

HealthyHousewife said
November 6, 2008 at 12:36 pm

I’m a dedicated water drinker who is passing on the trait to her children. I average about 72 oz. a day. More than that, and it comes out the same color it went in as, which seems inefficient to me. What’s hard is drinking enough water while traveling. Also, when disasters strike, water can become hard to come by. Don’t forget that your water heater is full of drinkable water. Just a tip.

Tom Rooney said
November 6, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Great Post Charlie,

For me, I just happen to drink when I’m thirsty. Just like one size doesn’t fit all, one day isn’t like another. If I’m outside mowing the lawn on a 90 degree day, I may have as many as 3 bottles of water until I’ve quenched my thirst. On sitting around doing nothing days, I can go hours before having a drink and even then just a sip may do it.

I thought I read somewhere recently that you can actually over hydrate yourself with too much water. Just remember the band still played on while the ship was sinking.

Biz said
November 6, 2008 at 2:50 pm

I find I only drink water during the day, while sitting at my desk. I drink less water and sadly, more beer and wine over the weekends!

But hey, that’s still liquid, right?!

Hide Those Cookies said
November 6, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Wow! 207 oz. You’d be sloshing!

carissa said
November 6, 2008 at 6:10 pm

I just stumbled across your site a few days ago. I think it’s fabulous! You always make me laugh.
As for this water stuff, I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but you really have to be careful about drinking too much because you can get very sick.
Actually, a year or two ago, a lady died from water intoxication during a radio promotion.

DaDivaStreet said
November 6, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Found my way here & I love it! You gave me the smile I needed today … Will be back!

Charlie said
November 6, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Welcome DaDivaStreet and anyone else who found their way here today.

Stephanie said
November 7, 2008 at 11:30 am

Holy Smokes! People actually feel ODD if they don’t DROWN themselves daily??? Wow….

The problem with water and my body is that even if I stop drinking it early in the afternoon, my bladder keeps wanting to get rid of it… making it impossible for me to sleep a night through….tmi I know.

Cynthia said
November 9, 2008 at 5:56 pm

There’s just no way to quantify the water thing… it’s all so individual. Climate matters, exercise level matters, all kinds of stuff. I think the best rule of thumb is just drink until your pee is very light or clear. That might be 8 cups for one person, it’s more like a gallon a day for me on rest days and a gallon and a half on serious workout days.

But I sure don’t need to spend much money on moisturizer or face cream! And I do live in a drier climate!

Anyway, if you drink throughout the day, you aren’t going to get sick. If that was a given, I’d have dropped dead a year or so back. Come to think of it, I haven’t had so much as a head cold in a year and a half.

The radio show lady was drinking too much all at once.

Melissa said
November 16, 2008 at 11:51 am

omg, are you married? because I think I am in love with you. I am obsessed with diet coke and my body would never ever crave water before my liquid satan, sadly, I must try and occasionally go with agua.