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Two-Thirds of Americans Don't Drink Enough

performance enhancers

By Sheila Tucker, MA, RD, LDN
Administrative Dietitian, B.C. Dining

water_newThe body's need for water is relentless. Between two and three quarts of water per day can be used by the body for such important functions as regulating body temperature, nutrient metabolism, cushioning joints, organs and tissues.

Despite the importance of water it is often the overlooked nutrient. We all have heard for years that we need at least eight cups of water a day but few of us are listening; at least two thirds of Americans pull up a quart short according to survey data. In water's place we guzzle coffee, tea, colas, alcohol and flavored drinks - beverages that don't help us go the extra mile the way water can. Caffeinated and alcohol containing drinks are diuretics and foster water loss.


Be a water warden

The amount of water that we need per day is a function of the amount of energy (or calories) we use. The average amount of water needed is between 8-12 cups/day. To keep track of your needs consider the following rule:

Every day drink:
8 cups water and 1-3 cups/hour activity. The range for added water depends on length and intensity of activity.

For example, your water needs...

Activity and body weight determine the amount of water you need to maintain proper hydration. A good rule to follow is to have eight cups a day and add more for each hour of activity.

Daily water requirement (in cups) with one hour of activity:

Your Weight Light activity Moderate activity Strenuous activity
115 lbs 9 cups 9-1/2 cups 10 cups
125 lbs 9 10 11
150 lbs 9 10 11
175 lbs 9-1/2 10-1/2 12-1/2
200 lbs 9-1/2 11 13-1/4


Withholding Water?

Do not wait until you are thirsty to decide you might be dehydrated; you could already be down at least a pint! Besides thirst, headache, dry mouth, dark urine, and lethargy can be signs of dehydration. Acute dehydration can cause muscle cramping, listlessness and light-headedness on rising. Remember your body's need for water is relentless. Certain circumstances require even higher water replacement than usual:

  Exposure to very hot or cold temperatures - your body works harder to maintain 98.6°.
  Strenuous activity - more water is lost through evaporation. You can sweat a quart of water in an hour of a medium work out.
  Prolonged exposure to heated or recirculated air - there is a drying effect to the skin. This happens with airline travel, office or during the heating season.

Helpful hints to get you on your way to hydration:

Drink all day - a cup of water when you rise, before all three meals, plus at bedtime coupled with one cup juice and two cups of milk can fill your tank for the day.
Drink before, during and after exercise. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. You owe your body 2 cups of water for every pound lost during exercise. Choose cool water on hot days. Unless you exercise at least an hour straight, water is the beverage of choice; save your pennies for something other than sport drinks. While performing strenuous exercise drink 4-8 oz. fluid every 15-20 minutes. -Make it a habit
Keep a pitcher of cool water in the refrigerator and make sure it is empty by bedtime.
Carry a travel mug of water (with a twist, if you like) to class.
At parties, alternate sparkling water with your usual beverage of choice.
Drink 8 oz. water or juice for every hour of flight time. Avoid caffeine and alcohol while flying; they're diuretics, adding to the effect of recirculated air besides aggravating jet lag. Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink. Make it an all day habit.