How much water should I drink?

How much water should I drink?

Every day in the fitness studio I ask clients if they are drinking enough water. I typically get one of two responses… Some clients admit that they are terrible about drinking water (I’m right there with you!). Some clients say they are “pretty good” with water, then proceed to name an inadequate number of cups per day.  

How much should you be drinking? 
How do other beverages impact your metabolism? 
Why is water so important?

Let’s answer these questions…

Table of Contents

Let’s talk about the beverages you consume

Although it’s not the most important “food group” in your overall diet in terms of nutrition, beverages are one way that sneaky calories and excess sugar can end up in your diet. It’s easy to lose track of how many calories are added up throughout the week when you are consuming beverages other than water.  Most beverages have no nutritional value and therefore are a “waste” of calories. You may already know this if you have tried a low carb diet and had to take a realistic view of how much sugar was in your favorite bottled coffee.
Take ACTION: Look at some of your recent food logs or think about any drinks you’ve had lately. On a new sheet of paper, write down all of the beverages you had during any 2-week time frame. Include water, coffee, tea, soda, bottled drinks, alcohol, and performance drinks (such as Gatorade or pre-workout mixes). Note: Lets count protein shakes and smoothies as meals/snacks and not include them in our beverage tally.
How much water did you drink in the two-week time frame? Or estimate how much water you had on a given day.
How many caffeine-containing drinks did you consume?
How many sugary drinks did you have?
How many alcoholic beverages did you have?

Think before you drink

Make each drink a conscious choice rather than a mindless one.  What I mean by this is, don’t simply choose beverages because they are familiar to you or are convenient. Are you truly thirsty or just bored? Could water do the job instead of a bottled or premade drink? (You might save a little money during this habit!)
Be intentional about how you make/order your coffee; can you reduce the sugar or flavor shots, or can you order a smaller size? Can you switch to a lower calorie alcoholic drink? Can you simply skip beverages such as bottle teas, sodas, and “sports waters” that have no nutritional value? Even though these are small changes; often only around 50 calories per drink, depending on what you change; this adds up to 5 lbs per year. 
Take ACTION: Let’s start tracking your beverages this week. Write down any calorie-containing beverages, keep a tally of your water intake (in ounces), and make notes of when you made a more mindful choice for your beverages. 

How much water should you drink?

In the fitness studio, and during coaching calls, I cannot shut up about how important hydration is for literally everything. If you didn’t know I was talking about plain old water, you’d think I was selling you the latest trendy fat loss supplement. Adequate hydration and a healthy body PH effects everything system in our body including hormones, mood, concentration, detoxing, appetite and hunger signals, skin appearance, aging, inflammation, healing, digestion, immunity, temperature regulation, physical performance, memory, learning… this list goes on. 
So how much water is enough? “8 x 8 oz glasses” is the most widely known recommendation but this falls short for nearly everyone.  Some formulas suggest different amounts of water based on your weight. It can become more confusing when some recommendations say to drink 1 gallon per day, others may say 3 liters per day, and others might measure in glasses or ounces. We need a calculator to figure out those conversions! Not to mention that some health authorities say fruits, vegetables, juices, and other liquids count toward our water intake goals, while others say only plain water counts. 
Take ACTION: Let’s keep it simple; Go to the kitchen and find a reusable water bottle that can hold roughly 25-30 ounces of water. Aim to have a minimum of 3 of these per day. If this is hard for you, simply start by adding an extra glass or two to your regular routines. If having 3 bottles of water a day is easy for you, make it a challenge and aim for 4. Keep a tally of this and also be aware of how much better you feel when you’re consistently well hydrated. 
If you find water “boring” there are thousands of articles online with ideas on how to spruce up your water. Try fruit or veggie infused water, flavored ice cubes, natural stevia-based flavor drops, and so on. This article is one woman’s (vulgar) take on drinking plain water. Don’t click if you don’t want to read any profanity.

Water and the brain

Many people determine their water intake based on their weight. It makes sense that a larger person would need more water than a smaller person, but does it make that much of a difference? One perspective is to look at how much water our brain needs (and we all have relatively similar-sized brains). Our brain is 90% water and runs on the electrical signals created by firing neurons. We know water conducts electricity, and we know how mentally sluggish we feel when we’re dehydrated, yet we don’t always think of our brain in regards to water intake. We must flush and refresh the water circulating through our brain and blood frequently. 1-1.5 liters (30-50 ounces) of fresh water flushes through our brain each day!

If it’s been a while since your last drink, by the time you feel thirsty, your brain performance has already declined by 10%!

Our brain is affected dramatically by changes in your body water levels. The brain declines the quickest when water is restricted but recovers the quickest as well. When you exercise, your brain literally shrinks because the water present there is being drawn to other tissues or is being evaporated via sweat. This shrinkage mimics the natural aging process but can be completely reversed by consuming 16 ounces of water during and after your workout

Simple tips for staying hydrated

  1. Buy a high quality, appealing reusable water bottle – Seeing a color that you like will make you more likely to keep it with you when going about your day, and more likely to pick it up and take sips frequently. Plus, if you’ve invested in a water bottle, you’d better get your money’s worth and actually use it 😉 !
  2. Start your day with water – The longest time we go without drinking is overnight. Make drinking a glass of water a part of your morning routine. It’ll help with morning clarity and alertness, flush out your system and get your organs hydrated and ready to start your day.
  3. If you are a “sipper”: Create ‘hydration milestones‘ throughout your day – Most water bottles have lines that measure ounces or milliliters, or some people write directly onto their bottles. If you sip water throughout the day, aim to consume certain amounts by certain times. For example; Finish 25% of the bottle by the time you arrive at work, finish 75% of the bottle before reaching for your second cup of coffee, finish the whole thing by lunchtime, fill + finish your second bottle by the time you leave work, finish 50% of your third bottle with dinner, etc. These milestones will change based on your daily routine, size of your water bottle, and water consumption goals.
  4. If you are a “chugger”: Set reminders or leave yourself notes – “Chug” a glass of water before breakfast, chase your first cup of coffee with a glass of water, chug a glass before and after your workout, chug a glass after lunch to stay alert and reduce the need to snack for energy, chug a glass of water when arriving home so you don’t confuse thirst for hunger when making and eating dinner.

Is it normal to pee this much?

The “normal” amount of times to empty your bladder each day is 8-10, but this varies widely for any given person and any given day. When I personally increased my water intake from an embarrassing 20 oz per day to a full 90 oz per day, I had days where I went to the bathroom 15-20 times. If you start drinking significantly more water after reading this, then you’ve probably been going to the bathroom more frequently.
Your kidneys, bladder, brain, digestive tract, and bloodstream will eventually balance out your fluids now that you are adequately hydrated. Once my body was used to a large increase in water each day, my bathroom visits settled down to a more normal 10-12 times per day. My example is more dramatic than most because I was drinking so little water to begin with. 75% of Americans are in a constant state of mild dehydration, and like the rest of us, you might have been drinking less than you assumed before you started really paying attention. 
If going to the bathroom every 60-90 minutes is a disruption to your work or schedule, try drinking your water in more concentrated amounts of time versus sipping it slowly and frequently throughout the day. If going to the bathroom in the middle of the night is annoying, try to finish your daily water 2 hours before bed. Experiment with what works for you!

Be “nice” to water

Japanese water scientist (yes, that’s a thing) Dr. Masaru Emoto studied the molecular chemistry of water for over 20 years and wrote many books on the subject. He used high-speed photography in microscopes to show that water molecules exposed to thoughts of love and gratitude organize into complex patterns like snowflakes. Polluted or stagnant water or water exposed to negativity or harsh music looked unstructured and chaotic under a microscope. 
Watch this 2 minute video on using gratitude and intention to change the molecular structure of water: 
Our bodies are 60-90% water and nearly every cell needs H20 to function. The impact of this is huge! While these discoveries open up discussions on spirituality, consciousness, mediation, and intention/prayer… We can also look at this information more simply. Try this: Every time you pick up your water bottle say something thoughtful such as ‘thank you for hydrating me‘ or ‘I hydrate my body with love and gratitude’. Use any phrase or mantra that makes sense to you. 

Alcohol adds up!

My best advice for alcohol is replacing your ‘go-to’ drink with a lower calorie version. This is often the simplest switch for most people and can be applied no matter how much alcohol you consume every week. 
Example #1: Jane prefers a very sweet dessert wine that contains 270 calories per glass. She has 2 glasses with dinner roughly 3 nights a week. This is 1,620 calories per week. Jane feels that she drinks in moderation and truly enjoys this routine. Instead of reducing her glasses per week, she decides to try lower-calorie options. She tries a few dry white wines and finds one she likes that has 180 calories per glass. She saves 540 calories per week and (not surprisingly) feels better not having as much sugar at night. This change causes her to lose about 8 lbs more in the next year than she otherwise would have if she only focused on the foods in her diet. The best part is that Jane doesn’t feel like she changed anything at all! 
If you are already choosing lower calorie alcoholic beverages, the next step is to reduce the number of drinks per week. 
Example #2:  Robert has three light beers with dinner every single night, sometimes more on weekends. Rob has noticed his joints are getting achy, his digestion is slowing down, and he doesn’t wake up feeling refreshed anymore. Rob decides to only have 1 drink with dinner Mon-Fri night. Saturday night he allows himself to have 3, but Sundays nights he has none in order to start the week feeling his best. This brings his weekly beer count from 21 to 8! This saves him 1,300 calories per week. The numbers tell us that Rob can expect to lose 3 lbs in the first two months of doing this. In reality, Robert started to feel better and was less bloated and achy. His morning workouts improved due to sleeping better the night before (thus he burned more calories). Without a cold beer in one hand at all times, he also lost the urge to snack as much at night (thus consuming fewer calories). The result was an 11-pound weight loss after two months of changing his alcohol routine. 

Can water help you lose weight?

Did you know drinking 17 oz (500 ml / 2 cups) of water raises your metabolism 25-30% for 90 minutes?!

Researchers have estimated that individuals drinking 68 ounces (2 Liters) of water per day burn 96 calories more. This is close to burning a pound a month! 

One 12 week study showed that dieters who drank 17 oz of water before meals lost 44% more weight than dieters who did not drink water. Think about it, if you lost 10 lbs in 12 weeks, that could have been 14-15 lbs in the same time frame! 
If you added up all of the tips and low-calorie swaps from this blog post you could lose another 32 lbs per year! Here’s a reminder of the math…
Remove 50 calories from your coffee each day – 5 lbs/year
Chose a lighter alcoholic drink, or have less each week – 8 lbs/year
Drinking 68 oz of water daily – 10 lbs/year
Remember – countless other factors are influencing your metabolism and this is not permission to eat whatever you want to and become sedentary just because you’re controlling your beverage intake. These are just examples to show you what is possible by prioritizing simple swaps that work with your lifestyle. Every example is not appropriate or realistic for every individual, but there are plenty of options to build healthy lifestyles and routines that work for you!
Bottom line: You should be drinking 60-90 ounces of water per day! Add 16-20 ounces if you’ve been training hard, out in the sun, or drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol. 
Hopefully, this has reiterated something you already know… Water is crucial for every function in your body and nearly all of us aren’t drinking enough of it!  Even small increases in your water intake can profoundly impact your metabolism, daily energy levels, and focus. 


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