Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
January 13, 2008    

How much water do you need?

Getting back on track

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Amy Culver
QueenOfLean.com

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How much water do you need?

True or False #1:  You need to consume eight 8oz glasses of water per day.

Answer: it depends.

The practice of drinking 64oz of water per day is based on an average person’s daily fluid output (sweat, urine, etc.).  The idea is that you want to replace all of the fluids that you lose in a day.  The mistaken conception, however, is that all of that water needs to be replaced by drinking actual fluids such as water, milk, soda and so on. 

What we typically don’t consider is that food contains water.  In fact, we get about 20 percent of our daily water intake through the food we eat.  Eating watery foods can be a great way to keep hunger at bay, especially if they are high in fiber as well.  Whole oranges are a great example of a food with lots of water and fiber.

So how much water should you drink every day?  A good way to know if you are getting enough water is to observe your urine.  How often do you need to "go" and what color is it?  Are you going every six hours with a dark colored urine?  If so, then you need more fluids.  However, if you are going every one to two hours and your urine is light yellow to clear in color, you are likely fine in your fluid intake. 


True or False #2:  Drinking lots of water helps you to feel fuller and eat less.

Answer: It depends.

The big factor here is how that water is consumed.  For years I followed the guideline that if you drink a big glass of water before you eat or with your meal, you will eat less.  Well, yes, you will eat less, but you won’t stay full as long.  The reason for this is that the extra water stretches your stomach out beyond the ability of the food to make you feel full.  When you drink a large glass of water with your meal, the water makes you feel full quickly because it fills your stomach and actually stretches it a bit.  So, you don’t need to eat as much as usual at that time. The water, however, digests and passes through your system much more quickly than the food you've eaten.  The problem is that your stomach doesn't shrink at the same rate.  So, you are left with a slightly stretched stomach with only a small amount of actual food left to fill it.  This creates a feeling of hunger soon after your meal.

If you eat watery food, though, you don’t get that drastic stretching effect.  You eat an orange, for example, much slower than you would drink the equivalent amount of water (or juice).  Your stomach is filled more slowly so it won’t stretch as much (if at all) and you don’t feel hungry again until more of the actual food is digested.

The best policy when it comes to water consumption is to listen to your body.  If you feel thirsty, drink.  Try to make it water or other clear liquids such as tea as much as possible.  Try not to waste calories on beverages like sugary sodas.  I don’t consider milk a waste of calories because it has good nutritional value, but you do need to consider the calories, so stick with 2% or skim milk and watch your servings.

I've been adhering to this policy for a few months now and I have had no adverse effects.  I was previously “pushing” water with the thought that it would help keep me feeling full.  I also thought that it would help to keep me from retaining water weight, the theory being that if you consume plenty of water your body won’t feel the need to “hoard” it.  Around the beginning of November, I started cutting back.  I stopped counting how much actual water I drank each day and just drank to satisfy my thirst.  My water consumption is now about half of what it was before and the results have been very positive.  Here is what I've noticed:

• I can run an errand or two without having to plan bathroom stops.  This is because I end up having to go every hour or two (a healthy frequency), rather than every 20 – 30 minutes.

• I have had no increase in my hunger levels.  In fact, I think they have shrunk a little and I believe that this is because I'm no longer “stretching” my stomach out with water.

• I have had no problems with water retention.  Yes, I have that day or two each month that most women experience, but nothing aside from that.  In fact, overall, my weight has been much more consistent day to day because I'm simply replacing the lost water rather than forcing my body to hold more than it really needs.

• I sleep better.  Before, I was getting up at least twice every night and sometimes as often as five times for “nature calls.”  Now, I get up once some nights and not at all on others.

• My urine still reaches that healthy light yellow to clear color.

• Because of my diabetes, my kidneys need to be treated kindly and I get blood and urine tests regularly.  My most recent tests showed that everything was functioning just as well as always.

So, if you are one of those people that has problems getting those required glasses of water in each day, perhaps you shouldn't be forcing it or feeling guilty.  Take a look at what you do drink including milk, juices and watery foods.  Have a chat with your doctor.  You may be doing better than you think.

Getting back on track

Are you having difficulties getting back on track after all of the holiday indulgences?

Check out my latest article for some tips on getting back into that fitness groove.

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