The Get Out the Bloat Campaign
Do I really need eight glasses of water each day? I spend half my time in the bathroom and the other half carrying around a bottle of water, feeling guilty for not drinking it. Am I really chronically dehydrated, or am I just wasting my time and money?
As an avid conspiracy theorist, I always love to find a new one. After personally discovering the nefarious link between plastics manufacturers and Twizzlers, I broke the story of the Canadian Potted Meat Scandal of 2002 (OK, turns out it was meat after all). If I could somehow prove that powerful water lobbyists were behind a plot to have everyone wearing clear, rubber Dehydration Awareness wrist bracelets, I'd be on to something big.
The origin is not certain of the 8 x 8 advice (eight, 8 oz. glasses, just under 2 liters). It has been suggested, though, that the National Research Council's Food and Nutrition Board recommendation to drink approximately 1 milliliter of water for each calorie of food is partly responsible. Advice from the Merck Manual, conventional medicine's Torah, is essentially the same, recommending 2.5 liters per day. Unfortunately, the 8 x 8 slogan neglects to include the fact that fully half that required water comes from the foods you eat.
When figuring the total water you have in a day, don't forget to include the amount you chew. For example, a medium apple is about 86 percent water, a slice of white bread weighs in at 35 percent, and although potted meat product is approximately 63 percent water, the amount in Twizzlers is negligible (the daily requirement of plastic has not been determined).
Should you include coffee, soda or beer in you calculations? Dr. Heinz Valtin, physiology professor emeritus of the Dartmouth Medical School thinks so. His research of all published studies indicates the diuretic effect (the water lost from frequent urges) is insignificant when these beverages are used in moderation. So unless you're Mormon, you'll likely have something to add to your total.
One running coach I know greets everyone with a hearty "How's your urine?" Stunned silences and bewildered looks aside, he is of the correct opinion that the color of your urine is a pretty good gauge of your hydration status. In the absence of disease (as well as certain vitamins, foods and drugs) darker urine usually means you need to drink a little more. As a general rule, the lighter the color the better. On the subject of urine characteristics, beets and asparagus are strictly for laughs.
But, the real question is whether it is truly necessary to do this analysis and computation. Probably not. If you're healthy, live in a moderate climate and are not involved in strenuous physical activity, you can and should use your thirst as a guide. Most people can depend on their thirst to alert them well before dehydration begins. In my opinion, better overall health advice than forcing down a half gallon of water is to drink when you're thirsty, eat when you're hungry and sleep when you're tired.
Carrying around water might be helpful in some cases, as it came in quite handy for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. But unless you're pursued by a vulnerable witch, it's probably not necessary. Americans are not chronically dehydrated as we are now being led to believe. And though I'm not certain who is behind this mischievous plot, you can be sure I will find out or else I'll make something up.