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How should we consume water?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 10, 2010 at 7:38 AM

This seems like such a simplistic question, but how, why and when should we consume water?

The generally accepted theory that rings true with me is to avoid drinking with meals, but in addition to this, should we be drinking as much water as we can at other times (like we hear nowadays; take a bottle with you everywhere and keep sipping) or should we, like many tribal people do, have one long drink whenever we come across a water source?

I am fascinated by the whole science behind water intake, but have no knowledge of it at all, so how much should we be drinking, is there an accepted quota or should we go by our thirst alone?

Medium avatar

(7073)

on March 10, 2010
at 06:54 PM

wow, the fasting sounds interesting, I am sure it has been written about somewhere else here, I am going to look it up. and yes, Anna, I had a hunch that the 8 glasses of water theory is going out of favor, I don't drink that much although I want more liquid on paleo certainly....

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 10, 2010
at 01:49 PM

Yes, the eight glass rule is going out of favour- and don't forget that things, like chicken broth, which are liquid can count too.

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 10, 2010
at 10:04 AM

I only have one solid-food meal per day, and I also drink cream or half-and-half away from dinner--so I usually end up fasting for about 19 hours+, and during that time I'm almost never hungry.

Medium avatar

(7073)

on March 10, 2010
at 09:31 AM

you mean you eat one meal a day and no other food at any other time, or that you snack throughout the day?

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8 Answers

4
9722850c9a1c47b79edf7c4233040248

(1276)

on March 10, 2010
at 05:48 PM

I once spent 6 weeks in the rockies in a geologic field mapping exercise. Although we had a very comfy base camp to go home to every night, there's always a risk of things quickly turning into a survival situation, and our instructors prepared us for it. On the subject of water - this being 6200-10,000 feet, very dry and often hot and sunny, doing pretty strenuous work - they said that the proper amount to drink would have us peeing light yellow every three hours. More water would have your electrolytes being washed out, less could send you into dehydration. Presumably this rule of thumb was made after watching people on the SAD (although a survivalist-type might tend toward paleo), but it's probably still a rough way to figure out how hydrated you are, especially in a setting where hydration really counts.

As a side note, I also learned there that the quickest way to have near-mutiny is to deny hard-working, exhausted people meat and fat. You wouldn't believe the nastiness that ensued when the kitchen staff got lazy and gave us boxed cereal for breakfast instead of eggs and bacon, or the memorable night on a camping trip, when a vegetarian professor and vegan TA, in a wild and sneaky attempt to reform us and show us that plants are just as nourishing as animals, and we would really like it once properly exposed, packed nothing but tofu and badly-cooked risotto for dinner. Then they doused the whole thing with HFCS plum sauce. We darkly rooted around our packs for spare beef jerky, and plotted cruel revenge. Mr. Vegetarian came over during our collective blood sugar crash and said, smiling, "see, isn't it just as good for you as meat?" The real kicker is that every at single meal away from base camp, we diligent and caring omnivores had carefully prepared a vegetarian version and vegan version of the meal. But on veggie night, there was no omni version for those of us who weren't accustomed to such huge amounts of carbs. When I indignantly told my mother all this, she laughed. I guess people really don't understand how much meat and fat means to them until they've gotten out of their offices and off their couches, done some back-breaking hard work, and then been in that situation. Unless you're a freaking vegetarian who's used to carby snacks every hour and pooping three times a day, as they were.

2
4545e6cc9b538cf21762039e0f6602be

on March 10, 2010
at 08:45 AM

I think the most important thing is avoiding dehydration. I???ve read that many people are chronically dehydrated. Kidney stones can result. The easiest way to check is pee into a clear container (in AM or when at home) and look for light yellow color. Proper hydration is a cheap way to improve many bodily functions including BMs.

2
5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

on March 10, 2010
at 08:33 AM

Generally speaking, drinking when you're thirsty is the way to go.

However, in some people (including me), your natural desire to be thirsty seems to get repressed somehow. If you find you don't get thirsty very often, you might have to develop a pattern of drinking at certain times. One way to check if you're slightly dehydrated is to look at your tongue in the mirror; if it looks dry, then you might consider having a drink.

I agree that it's probably a good idea to avoid drinking with a meal, since the water can dilute the food, which lowers the concentration of nutrients and thereby makes some of them more difficult to absorb. However, it's also true that digestion requires some water, so you shouldn't eat if you're dehydrated.

I think the idea that's popular in some circles of drinking 8 glasses a day is just way too much. Water actually is a solvent, and you can end up washing more good stuff out of you than you might think. Plus, I think it's just unpleasant and unnatural.

I'm not saying it's for everyone, but the pattern I've fallen into on a typical day is to have a large glass of water when I first wake up, another around noon, and one more before bed. The one before bed keeps fluid moving through my kidneys at night; that can help deter kidney stones, which I'm prone to (a tip I got from someone in my family who was a practicing urologist for about 50 yrs; it can require two glasses in more severe cases). If I get thirsty at other times, I will have either water again or sometimes milk or half-and-half. Then I usually don't drink anything with dinner, which is the only meal I eat.

It's also worth pointing out that the amount of water a person needs varies dramatically, depending on your activity level and the temperature and humidity. If you're working hard on a hot, dry day, you might need to drink several gallons of water to stay fully hydrated.

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 10, 2010
at 10:04 AM

I only have one solid-food meal per day, and I also drink cream or half-and-half away from dinner--so I usually end up fasting for about 19 hours+, and during that time I'm almost never hungry.

Medium avatar

(7073)

on March 10, 2010
at 09:31 AM

you mean you eat one meal a day and no other food at any other time, or that you snack throughout the day?

Medium avatar

(7073)

on March 10, 2010
at 06:54 PM

wow, the fasting sounds interesting, I am sure it has been written about somewhere else here, I am going to look it up. and yes, Anna, I had a hunch that the 8 glasses of water theory is going out of favor, I don't drink that much although I want more liquid on paleo certainly....

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 10, 2010
at 01:49 PM

Yes, the eight glass rule is going out of favour- and don't forget that things, like chicken broth, which are liquid can count too.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 10, 2010
at 11:39 PM

The simplistic answer is- drink when you are thirsty. I don't see the point in micro-managing the times and amounts you plan to drink each day. Just do it.

1
9747ae0ff20a8f4a4a2857c66820b125

(439)

on March 10, 2010
at 03:24 PM

I've noticed that I tend to drink less these days (1 month and counting on strict no-dairy paleo). I drink about 16-20 oz of tea between 06:00 and 10:30 (I bring a thermos to school), and then after that I really only have a swig or two of water the rest of the day, a little bit more after a bike ride or a workout. I don't drink with meals anymore, but that wasn't planned, it just sorta happened. Haven't noticed any symptoms of dehydration or other problems as of yet.

My dog, who is a primal dog, drinks a lot less water than I remember my golden retriever did a few years ago.

There's something to be said for this decrease as far as evolution goes, I think. Paleolithic man did not have a nalgene to carry his water with him, so he either had to camp by water every night or do without. Sometimes, no doubt, he did without. I've been taught that the human body can go 3 days (roughly) without water, but it is possible that the correct diet could extend that time, or at least delay the thirst response.

Then again, I could just be chronically dehydrated without knowing it.

1
Be4b60059db3511771303de1613ecb67

(1137)

on March 10, 2010
at 12:59 PM

I fill up a 32 oz bottle with filtered water every morning. I drink when I am thirsty, but I don't plan or think about how much I should be drinking. I usually have to refill the bottle at dinnertime. I usually end up drinking around 48 oz a day. That amount seems to work fine for me. Sometimes I drink more, sometimes less. My body lets me know when it is thirsty.

1
D15d6820ef1545edac65e975cc2d8949

on March 10, 2010
at 07:48 AM

Layman's opinion: you should probably go by thirst, making sure that you try to drink something first when you think you're hungry, as the two feelings are easy to mix up.

It is however a good idea to keep an eye open for symptoms of dehydration, such as lightheadedness and fatigue. In many such cases, you might also need salt (sodium), especially in the summer where you lose electrolytes through perspiration.

0
15d23403fb836f2b506f4f3ad2c03356

(1219)

on March 10, 2010
at 04:13 PM

As a general rule, drinking when thirsty is a good place to start. To better digestion, I don't drink (much) water in proximity to meals and, to better sleep, I don't drink water a few hours before bed (so I don't have to pea during the night). A little planning is necessary to accomplish all of these goals while avoiding dehydration so the drink-when-thirsty principle doesn't quite cut it for me.

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