It’s officially summer time and with the world opening up again, our collective activity level is rising. But no matter how busy your schedule is, it’s crucial that taking care of your health should remain the number one priority. The easiest way to do this? Drink enough water! Before you dive into the brunch cocktails, make sure the Brita is full and ready to go for the day.
But can you drink too much water? We all know that not drinking enough water can lead to dizziness, fatigue, and possibly even fainting. But what if you overcompensate? Can you overdo it on the H2O? Technically, yes! Guzzling water all day long may seem like a great idea, but drinking a shocking amount of water doesn't automatically mean you’re healthier. Here’s what those consequences can look like (as well as other hydration questions you need to know as it heats up).
For a normal, healthy adult drinking too much water typically isn’t an issue. Athletes, however, need to be careful when it comes to hydration, as they tend to drink more to help recover or stay hydrated during longer sweat sessions. Being too hydrated may cause a condition called hyponatremia, which means too much sodium has been flushed out of your blood. The symptoms are similar to being dehydrated (although you’ll know it’s not dehydration due to the sheer volume of liquid you’ve been consuming). Things like fatigue, headaches, nausea, and muscle cramps may all be signs you’re overdoing it.
Water is a fix for everything from getting a brighter complexion to boosting your exercise performance, which is why it’s confusing to think that too much of it is a bad thing. Here’s how much fluid you should be taking in on the average day, according to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Women should aim for 11.5 cups a day (2.7 liters) and men 15.5 cups (13.7 liters). Just remember that this includes any water you take in through your diet, such as fruits and veggies.
In general, you’ll receive about 20% of your water from the foods you eat. You don’t have to measure out how much water is from that side of zucchini, don’t worry!
Still curious if you’re hitting your H2O goals? Your water intake should vary based on the climate you’re in, your lifestyle, and any additional health concerns (like pregnancy) that you’re experiencing. This being said, you probably can’t drink exactly 64 oz of water every day and always be perfectly hydrated. A quick trick to check on your hydration? Check you pee! If your urine is pale/clear in color you’re doing a good job, if it’s darker or yellow in color you need to drink more water.
If you want to make sure you’re properly hydrated when exercising in the hotter temps, make sure you’re drinking approximately 17 to 20 ounces two to three hours before you work out. This helps kick-start the hydration process. Forgetting to drink water before or waiting until you’re thirsty during a workout to drink up will leave you at risk for dehydration because your fluid bank is running low or empty at the start.
Drinking water before you exercise is very important, but humans aren’t meant to be camels that store all their fluid at once. Stay hydrated by regularly drinking during exercise, particularly if it’s hot outside. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking anywhere between three to eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. The goal is to lose no more than 2% of your total body weight from a water deficit. Finding how much fluid you need can take some finessing. Too much water can make you feel waterlogged, so as long as you’re properly hydrated before you start exercising it’s OK to grab a drink when you find yourself feeling thirsty rather than constantly looking at the clock.
About the author
Colleen Travers is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in health, nutrition, diet, fitness, and wellness trends for various publications and brands. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, SHAPE, Fit Pregnancy, Food Network, and more.