"I never drink water!" – So, are you dehydrated?
It’s almost a matter of pride, right? From the heavy drinker to the tea drinker, from the coffee addict to the kola kid, “water” is a dirty word.
Are humans among those rare rare mammals that need very little water to survive? After all, unlike desert creatures, we don’t have a built-in water conservation mechanism. If you’ve read early Dune science fiction books, you’ve seen what could be done to get us that way, the ‘still suit’, but it’s not real. No, we are not designed for low water intake.
So why do many of us think we can get by on a couple of pints of fluid a day and even drink it with diuretics like alcohol and caffeine in cola, tea, and coffee? I don’t think we think about it. We only think about convenience. Going to urinate is an inconvenient waste of time, so avoiding fluid intake seems like a delicate task. But there is a high price for saving those few minutes each day.
If you are one of these low water drinkers, and there are so many, you will be amazed at how much more alert you become and how quickly that “sluggish” feeling goes away when you start drinking properly. Doctors are not going to insist without reason!
Our miracle poison removers
One of the fastest ways to attract serious bodily harm is to stop the removal of poisons. Our bodies are constantly generating waste. It is part of the state of being alive. The feces are the most obvious; so is breathing (it releases carbon dioxide); And sweating is another, getting rid of salts and some other chemicals.
Urine is also an important waste. It is the end product of a complex chain of processes, which begins with the removal of waste from every cell in our body. By just living and doing its job, all of our cells absorb nutrients and oxygen and remove wastes like lactic acid directly through the cell wall. Our blood and lymphatic systems drain this for processing in the liver, and our kidneys extract the waste that is released from the liver, store it in the bladder, and pump it out periodically. Well, so far.
Water is vital for health
The point is, all of these processes depend on an adequate supply of water to function. Dehydrated cells cannot excrete poisons properly. One result is a muscle cramp. Another is a poor ability to think clearly, as your brain malfunctions. Why? The shortage of water in our blood and lymphatic systems is very dangerous, and your body will draw this water from almost every other part of the body to maintain blood functions without which you will soon die, especially by cleaning waste from every cell in your body. And if, like most of us, you are on a high-salt diet, your body needs even more available water to maintain the hydration balance between your blood and cells. Or again, die, painfully.
Concentrated urine is an early symptom of dehydration and can cause all kinds of malfunctions, including kidney and gallstones. Birds have a mechanism to suck almost all of the water out of the urine, hitting the familiar white missile on your head! But we have no such ability. When our urine becomes too concentrated, it is a sign of trouble.
A classic result of dehydration is those hallucinations (all those ‘lost in the desert’ stories) when your brain is deprived of water to keep the rest of you alive. Oh, and if you are dehydrated, you will also have digestive problems, mainly constipation.
But we don’t have to go too far down this road to be handicapped by dehydration. An early symptom is loss of concentration, as water is drawn from our brains to keep everything else going. That can be really expensive. Migraine and headaches is another. So if you want to avoid the pain, lose money due to bad decisions or the risk of an accident, keep hydrating, drink!
How Much Water Should I Drink?
It’s easy to do: follow the well-known doctor’s advice to drink seven glasses of water a day. You’ll find that you become more alert, you feel fresher, and maybe those headaches and migraines that you have under stress will magically disappear. And of course you will need to urinate more often, but that’s natural and healthy!
Water can be any drink with water, other than a diuretic (see above). So soup, milk, fruit juice, herbal teas, etc., it all counts. The water in your meals does not do so unless they are very high in water, and don’t forget to count the calories in these drinks as part of your meal. It’s not my fault you get fat! And drink constantly during the waking day, not liters at a time!
Maybe you want a more specific guide? Here are three simple tips to help you drink the right amount of water:
TIP ONE: Calculate Daily Water Needs
Calculate your optimal water intake using one of these general rules of thumb; you only have to do it once.
- In pounds Drink a half ounce of water a day per pound of your body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 150/2 = 75 ounces of water a day. That’s just under 5 US pints, just under 4 imperial pints.
- On kilos, Drink 3 hundredths of your weight in water every day. So if you weigh 70 kilos, drink 70 x 3/100 = 210/100 = 2.1 liters (the same as kilos) of water every day, a little more than 2 liters.
It may seem like a lot of water, but it isn’t! Most mammals voluntarily ingest a similar intake of water. It’s only humans who stubbornly resist drinking just for short-term convenience and despite receiving those natural ‘thirst’ signals. You will see below how little each hour is.
TIP TWO: Detect Dehydration
First, look for a loss of concentration. If you forgot to drink in the last two hours, you have probably found the reason. But also keep a general watch on your urine concentration. Most people’s urine is a deep yellow color, and this is considered normal. But most people are dehydrated! A simple motto is PEE PALE. It is easy. Aside from maybe the first time you go in the day, or if you are sick or if you are eating something poisonous like whiskey and it detoxifies quickly, expect your urine to be a pale straw color. If it gets stronger, a defined deeper yellow, drink it! It really is that simple. And yes, you may have to look inside the bowl to check. It’s not that gross, is it? I bet if you are male, you will find yourself looking towards the next public toilet stall, just to see what color … I bet!
TIP THREE: The Daily Balance
Your body is naturally good at maintaining water balance, if you are not as dehydrated as many Westerners. If you are slightly dehydrated, your kidneys will allow less water containing a higher concentration of waste to enter your bladder; that’s where the brighter yellow urine comes from.
Suppose you don’t pee, even when you get the signals that your bladder is full and you need to do it (a gripping 3-hour movie? Watching a long run?) Or suppose you are really dehydrated and short on water. Then your kidneys will stop processing waste and the level of poison in your blood will start to rise. Many people are at that high level of poison all the time, and concentration and body processes such as efficient digestion and waste removal from cells begin to deteriorate.
If, at the other extreme, you have a lot of water in your blood, your bladder fills up quickly. You should urinate more often and your urine will be very pale.
So, within certain limits, you can cope with quite a wide difference in water intake without problems. But if you hydrate in excess or excess, you will suffer pathological conditions.
It will work best if you have a regular intake of water, just the right amount every hour you are awake. So try to drink your optimal daily amount of water evenly throughout your waking day. (When you sleep, the system shuts down pretty well anyway. That’s why a glass of water is a good first action when you wake up.)
Suppose you are a 130 kg, 150 pound guy, and your optimal level is around three liters a day. If you are awake 16 hours a day, that’s about 200 ml (about 7 ounces) every hour, and one hour you eat a meal that is mostly water, for example, fruit or soup. If you are a slim lady and need two liters a day, make it around 150 ml per hour (about 5 ounces). Now, even if you are one of those who are dehydrated, it doesn’t sound like an impossible lot to drink, does it?
If you find that you have become dehydrated or find that you have forgotten to drink for several hours, drink the equivalent of an hour right away and then another in 20 minutes to half an hour. That gets you back on track and your body will rebalance pretty quickly. What you should not do is try to recover all the lost fluid. You’ve already adjusted to its loss, and drinking that much at once will over-hydrate you.
Be sensible in managing your water balance
These are pretty rough figures in Tips 1 and 3, so don’t get too rigid about it. (You may have noticed that the conversions for pounds and kilos are not exactly the same, but they are easy to calculate.) If you drink twice the amount shown, you are overworking your kidneys, which is not good. If you drink half of it, you are quite dehydrated. Be sensitive about it.
If you are taking diuretics, you are forcing your kidneys to process more water than it should, so you will urinate too often. The result is that you have to drink more to stay hydrated. The most common diuretic drinks contain stimulants like caffeine and taurine, or alcohol, or maybe both! So anything heavily alcoholic, especially shorts, spirits, and wine, will need water to balance it out. So will tea, coffee, chocolate, colas, and sports / energy drinks (Red Bull, for example), and the stronger they are, the more water you’ll need to balance them out. They all contain poisons and will cause a detoxifying effect anyway, so it’s not easy to judge the correct balance. Weak tea or coffee, or most colas, won’t need a lot of water to balance. Strong things like extra-strong tea, coffee shorts, and sports drinks with taurine, may need more water than the drink itself to balance. Italians don’t drink water with their shot of coffee for nothing!
One last point: if you sweat a lot, the rules are different. I am thinking of extreme conditions, such as being in a humid environment, with blood temperature or working hard in a very hot environment, or working very hard anywhere. Some examples are: long-distance runners, cyclists, and swimmers; underground coal miners; ovens; they fired blasters with fully remote air equipment, sugar cane cutters. Under these conditions, you can quickly excrete more water than your body can afford to lose. You can also lose too much salt, one of the few situations in which you can be deficient in salt. The answer, just as heavy sweating is occurring, is to drink more water to make up for sweat losses, adding a pinch of salt to each liter. No need to consume expensive specialty beverages: If you need sugar to top up your blood sugar levels, use honey or a low acid fruit juice (eg cantaloupe) in the water. There is no stimulant poison in the homemade brew and you know what you are getting!
In general, your attitude towards hydration should be simple: be sensible. Tip 2 is your common sense guide: pee pale!