Q: Do I really need to drink eight glasses every day?
A: No. According to a key review in the Journal of Physiology by Heinz Valtin, there's no evidence to support drinking eight glasses of water each day.
So how much water do you really need? According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, women should consume 91 ounces a day, and men need 125 ounces--a good deal more than the 64 ounces (eight cups) generally recommended.
Here's the catch: We get most without heading for the tap or uncapping a bottle of Evian even once. The main reason? We get the water we need from a variety of sources, including food and other liquids.
"Approximately 45 to 50 percent of daily water intake comes from drinking fluids, about 35 percent from eating food and the rest from metabolism,"
Vegetables and fruits are the most hydrating (e.g., lettuce is 95 percent water). But we also get a lot from meat, as well as soup, juice, soda, milk and even coffee.
Q: How long can I go without any liquids?
A: "It depends on a myriad of factors including body size, sweat rate, amount of activity and environment," But just to give you some idea, a person can die in one day without water in a desert but could last as long as two weeks in a hospital.
Q: If I'm thirsty, am I already dehydrated?
A: No. "You are underhydrated, not totally dehydrated. Thirst is a signal that your body would like more fluid," Hydration is measured by blood concentration (e.g., the concentration of sodium in your blood)--the higher the concentration, the more dehydrated you are. When this concentration increases by just two percent, you get thirsty.
"Thirst is a warning mechanism, letting you know that dehydration is lurking around the corner, but to escalate to actual dehydration, the blood concentration must rise by five percent,"
What about "storing" water (i.e., drinking a lot before you go out and lose fluids)? "That doesn't work," Assuming we're healthy, all liquids we drink will be out of our bodies within a half-hour. So you can't store up your liquids."
Q: Are sports drinks better than water?
A: Sometimes. Sports drinks are designed to be taken during exercise that lasts for more than an hour, They are particularly helpful for athletes because they contain a little sugar to fuel the muscles and the brain, as well as a little sodium to enhance fluid absorption and retention.
Q: Are coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks dehydrating?
A: Absolutely not. They provide fluids just like any beverage. A slightly greater percentage of the ingested fluid may be urinated, but it's still providing water. In fact, People who are used to drinking caffeinated beverages get accustomed to the caffeine and don't urinate more fluid than they consume via their coffee or tea.
Q: Is cold water better for your body than water at room temperature?
A: No. The reasons that cooled liquids (55 degrees Fahrenheit) are recommended for rehydrating--specifically for athletes--are several-fold, including the facts that they empty the stomach faster than room-temperature fluids, cool the body down a little and may increase the willingness to drink.
Q: Is it true that you can never get too much water, or any beverage for that matter?
A: You definitely can ingest too much water--resulting in hyponatremia (water intoxication). This is most commonly seen in marathoners who run so slowly that they don't generate much temperature rise or sweat yet are drinking water excessively.
But don't worry. Someone who's healthy couldn't really get to this point. It's estimated that it would take almost 15 liters of water for a healthy person to develop hyponatremia.