Eight glasses of water a day or not?

March 20th, 2006 by Sit up a Tree

I keep coming across people debating whether or not the human body actually needs to have 8 glasses of water a day to maintain health and vitality.  A lot of people (including health care professionals) recommend 8 glasses or water a day, claiming that if you drink less than this you are running the risk of becoming dehydrated.  Others claim that this number is nonsense and an overestimate and that you should drink based on whether you are thirsty or not.

Note:  Here a glass is considered to be 8 fluid ounce (US), so eight glasses would be 4 pints (US) or roughly 2 liters.

I’ve carried out some research and it seems that there isn’t any real scientific basis for the claim that eight glasses a day are needed to maintain a healthy body.  To begin with, this number doesn’t take into account the climate (the hotter it is, the more water you need) or exertion levels (the more you do, the more water you need).  It seems to be at best a guess and at worse a total shot in the dark.

However, living in a society where people wouldn’t think anything of drinking that much liquid in the form of coffee, cola or alcohol, it does seem strange to be debating whether 8 glasses or water is enough, too much, or not enough.  These things certainly don’t contribute to health and well-being (the opposite in fact, they actually harm your health) and in light on the levels of consumption of these kinds of fluids (I can’t bring myself to call them drinks) it seems odd to be worrying about whether 8 glasses or water is too much.

I’ve found that for me, about 2 liters of water a day is about right.  I tend to go through a good quarter of that while exercising and the rest I sip throughout the day as needed.  There are days when I drink more (because it’s hot or because I’ve exercised more) and I haven’t noticed any ill effects.  On the days when I’ve not drunk as much I can honestly say that I’ve felt more lethargic than usual and once I actually start to feel thirsty I’m aware of the fact that my concentration levels and quantity and quality of my work are lower.

Your mileage may vary but for me the “8 a day” advice seems about right.  I don’t drink cola or coffee so that might means I get less water from other sources (back when I did drink cola and coffee I didn’t drink this much water) but even if I am overestimating by a glass or so I can’t see the harm in it.

I suggest you experiment – if you are the kind of person that doesn’t drink much water then try adding a glass or two a day to your diet and see how you feel after a week or so.  If you feel better (more energy, improved concentration, etc) then why not see how you feel if you add another glass.  Keep going until you feel you’re not seeing any benefit from the extra.

Don’t, however, jump straight to drinking 8 or more glasses a day – not only will this feel like a huge chore but you will experience a few side-effects, such as frequent urination and a bloated feeling in your stomach.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 20th, 2006 at 10:50 am and is filed under Optimize your Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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