We all know that drinking enough water is important, but is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
Too much water?
The human body is about 60 percent water, and maintaining the right balance of hydration is an essential part of staying healthy. According to industry best practices, most experts recommend drinking approximately two liters of water per day for adults.
Not drinking enough can lead to dehydration, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue, among other things. To avoid getting dehydrated, some people carry a special water bottle with them all day to ensure they’re always drinking. There’s also a host of mobile apps and services that use all kinds of fun and creative prompts to help you remember to hydrate.
Too much water, on the other hand, can upset your electrolyte balance and lead to hyponatremia, the swelling of the body’s cells due to sodium dilution, and can be anything from uncomfortable to seriously dangerous.
Signs and symptoms
If you do drink too much water, there are several apparent signs. Many of these, like excessive urination, are easily recognizable as coming from drinking too much, but others are not so obvious.
Immediate physical signals that you’re drinking too much water include sweating, nausea, cramps, headache, bloating, and fatigue. Ignoring these signs and pushing past to water intoxication can lead to hypertension, causing an increased risk of heart attack and even death.
If you’re thinking that some of these signs sound the same as the symptoms of dehydration, you’re right. While there are significant differences in what dehydration and water intoxication do to the body internally, the presenting physical symptoms can look the same on the surface.
How much is too much?
There is no single answer to the question of how much water is right for you. Many experts agree that a good baseline for total water intake is around 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) per day for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men. Still, many factors, such as body weight, activity level, age, the weather, and genetics, all play a role in determining your body’s needs.
Likewise, a lot of the water you need comes from other beverages and the food you eat since most foods contain a degree of water. Determining how much water you need to drink each day changes based the individual needs of a person.
A good rule of thumb that many experts refer to is the bodyweight rule. On the most basic level, you can aim for between half and one fluid ounce of water for every pound you weigh, meaning that a person weighing 180 pounds should drink somewhere between 90 and 180 ounces of water per day.
If that sounds too imprecise for you, there is a more sophisticated method. First, you divide your body weight by 2.2, and then multiply the result by either 30, 35, or 40, depending on your age. Finally, you take the number you get from that and divide it by 28.3, which leaves you with the approximate number of fluid ounces of water your body needs each day. By that calculation, a 180-pound person between the ages of 30 and 55 should drink just over 100 ounces (or about 12 and a half cups) of water daily.
Even calculations like this aren’t a definitive measure of how much you actually need to drink, but they can serve as a reasonable ballpark estimate if you’re trying to start measuring your daily intake and avoid water intoxication. To make sure you’re measuring correctly, the most important steps to take are to first find your ideal water intake amount, and then monitor yourself throughout the day to ensure you’re keeping up.
Best practices for enjoying water
One of the best ways to enjoy water and avoid dehydration or water intoxication is to be preemptive in your approach. By drinking water according to your predefined estimate throughout the day, you can avoid overconsumption and underconsumption.
Additionally, It’s important to check in with yourself regularly. It’s not always easy to remember, but it doesn’t take much to stop periodically and assess how your body is feeling.
Even if you’re not always focused on the amount of water you drink throughout the day, you can get a pretty good idea of how you’re doing each time you take a bathroom break based on the color of your urine. Ideally, it should be pale yellow in color. Darker colors typically indicate that you need to drink more water, and if you find that you’re going a lot and that the color is completely clear, it could be a sign that you’re overhydrating.
Another thing to keep in mind is the quality of the water you drink. Clean water is good water, and in almost all situations, you can’t do better than clean, filtered water. For regularly active people with a balanced diet, there’s usually no need for fancy electrolyte drinks since the salt in your food should help you retain that water you drink. However, always make sure that your water is free of any contaminants, as water containing any contaminants can do more harm than good.
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