Jerry Seinfeld had a bit a few years ago about society’s recent preoccupation with drinking the right amount of water. “Oh, you better hydrate,” he says, “On the plane, in the gym … According to the fitness people on TV, once you feel thirsty you’re too late. Just try and catch the pieces of your face as they dry up and crack off onto the floor.”
A quick Google search debunks Jerry’s end claim (your faces are safe), but does also detail the amount of paranoia now associated with daily water consumption. The query “How much water should I drink” yields 600 million results in under a second, with a confluence of medical journals, celebrity diets and stunt journalists all vying for attention on the topic. If there is an answer to be had, it’s one you’ve probably already heard: make sure to have eight eight-ounce glasses a day. (Which would look like four standard-sized Poland Spring water bottles).
That “answer,” though, has been repeatedly debunked by various online publications, from the statisticians at FiveThirtyEight to wellness professionals freelancing for The New York Times. As these pieces (and others) point out, the 8×8 notion might stem from a 1945 publication from the National Food and Nutrition Board, which suggested that Americans consume 2.5 liters of water a day. In the decades following, Big Water has fueled the hysteria, funding studies that reveal just how dehydrated we all are. (For example, Nestlé was behind this study in 2012). However we got here, Americans are about to enter a new decade and are still confused about how much water they should actually be drinking. Just as important though, amidst the squabbles on how much is too much or too little, we’ve lost sight of exactly what water does for the body, and how the amount you drink can relate to your personal fitness goals.
We decided it was about time for a regroup on the topic, so we reached out to Dr. Philip Goglia, the head nutrition consultant for Marvel Studios, and founder of G-Plans, an online nutrition platform that personalizes meal plans based on your metabolic body type. He knows a thing or two about putting the right stuff in your body. Below, find Dr. Goglia’s thoughts on a ballpark figure of much we should be drinking, the time of day we should prioritize hydration, and the one dehydrating culprit we should avoid.
Is there an actual magical number?
“For overall health, and weight loss in particular, you should be drinking 1/2 oz to 1 oz of water per pound of body weight each day. When you don’t drink enough water, your body automatically adapts survival strategies, and tries to maintain a constant core temperature by storing fat as insulation. It’s natural to believe you’re drinking enough fluids, but too often that simply isn’t the case. The myth that everyone needs eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day is absurd, considering that the “rule” doesn’t factor in the weight of the individual.”
Is there a time of day we should prioritize?
“The morning. Drinking water first thing in the morning is a great way to jumpstart your metabolism and rehydrate your body after a night of rest. It’ll help you feel more energized, and put you on the right track for success by getting a head start on your H2O goal. Skip the coffee, and get in the habit of taking your water bottle with you wherever you go. Work, school, running errands … keep it by your side. This will serve as a reminder to keep taking sips throughout the day. When you are home, keep a water glass or bottle by your bedside or desk so you’ll be reminded first thing in the morning to drink water.”
What short-term benefits can we expect?
“Drinking the right amount of water can instantly improve your energy level, while improving digestion, brain function, skin health, and physical performance. Staying hydrated can also help balance your blood sugar … which keeps unhealthy cravings at bay.”
How about lifetime positives?
“Your cells and organs all need water to function and survive. Consistent hydration will not only contribute to a youthful future, but also prevent issues that arise with low water intake. It can prevent kidney damage, since water is essential for healthy kidney function. Water also helps regulate body temperature, which can aid in metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight. Proper hydration also protects and lubricates the joints, as consistent dehydration has been associated with joint pain. Lastly, your digestion system is heavily impacted by water intake. Constant dehydration can increase stomach acidity, which incites other digestive problems like ulcers and heartburn.”
Are there foods that aid in hydration?
“Your water intake should only be coming from plain H20, but foods like watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cantaloupe all have hydrating effects. It’s just important to note that foods can’t replace water for your hydration needs.”
What’s a dehydrating “culprit” we should all avoid?
“Avoid sports drinks. Many of them are high in sodium and sugar. Some even contain caffeine, which will cause digestive discomfort. The type of energy you get from sports drinks will be “spikey” at best and not sustainable.”
How do those of us with small bladders fit into all this?
“Your body will need time to adjust to your new water intake. If you’ve only been drinking 50oz daily, you can’t expect your body to accommodate double that right away. Having a consistent water intake is best to allow time for your bladder to adjust. For someone with a small bladder, it’s best to spear out your water intake throughout the day. Also: cut down on problematic drinks like caffeine and carbonated beverages.”
Thoughts on newfangled fancy waters? Like ionized water?
“At the end of the day, water is just water. Whether you choose to buy the fancy waters or just sip on plain H20, you’re going to get the same result. I’d say keep it simple by just drinking regular water.” [Editor’s note: We agree.]