One thing that never fails in the “fitness world” is that there is an all too common belief from both uneducated trainers and fitness “newbies” that if a little is good/healthy then a whole lot more must be super healthy! An unfortunately this has happened with water consumption. Many years ago the general recommendation of water consumption was (and it still is) around 8-glasses a day. Believe it or not depending on your activity level even 8-glasses maybe too much. But fast forward to today and people are drinking ridiculous amounts of water. How many times do you see “dude/bros” carrying a gallon jug of water while lifting and forcefully drinking that entire gallon while doing their 2-hour muscle isolations workouts? Or want about the girl who can’t go anywhere without a Klean Kanteen and has to use the restroom at least once an hour? I feel like I am becoming the Fitness Mythbuster and I am here to tell you that the recommendation to drink a gallon or more a day is not only a myth, it is unhealthy!
If you look at the chart below, water consumption can be best described using a bell curve. Too little water is unhealthy (dehydration)and too much water is also unhealthy (dilution). Drinking too much water not only dilutes your electrolytes it can also dilute your stomach acid (pH) levels which will interfere with your digestion. The really crazy thing about drinking too much water is it becomes a slippery slope very quickly as it causes your electrolyte levels to become imbalanced and this imbalance triggers you to drink more water because your body thinks you are dehydrated (crazy, right?). You have to remember that our bodies still have the same “programing” as our “caveman” ancestors and over-hydration was never even a real possibility until very recently as we now have basically unlimited access to water. We become thirsty when our electrolyte levels are imbalanced and until very recently, the only way electrolyte levels would become imbalanced is when we started to become dehydrated, however, our body can’t distinguish if the imbalance is caused by too little or too much water, it just knows our levels are off.
Sadly I have been a victim of this failed fitness advice. Several years ago I used to try to drink at least a gallon of water a day because that’s what all the “dude/bros” where doing. I would use the restroom at least once an hour and my pee would be crystal clear. No joke, I was literally peeing straight water! Not only was I a slave to the restroom I would also get headaches in the morning. There were many a time I woke up feeling like I had a hangover from drinking so much water. Also the more water I drank the thirstier I became. I always felt like I could not get enough water. After about three months of this I became so miserable that something had to give, I did some research and found out that too much water was just as unhealthy as too little water. I then significantly cut back on the amount of water I consumed and felt great. In fact the two biggest dietary changes I made that had the greatest impact on my overall well-being was removing gluten and not force feeding myself water.
How much water should you drink? Of course that depends on a lot of factors but the best way is to monitor your pee. I know it may seem weird but we need to know what is going on with our bodies and our pee gives us a lot of feedback. The ideal pee color is a very light yellow. Also take note of how often you need to pee. If you are going numerous times throughout day or you have to get up a few times a night (interrupting your sleep) you are drinking too much water.
The real goal is for you to become very in-tuned with your body and you only drink water when you are thirsty. Let me give you an example of my water consumption for a regular day and keep in mind I am active most of the day so my water needs are probably higher than most.
- Morning – Right after I wake up I usually drink 8-oz to 16-oz of water. I am usually fairly thirsty in the morning and I believe drinking water in the morning is the best time to drink as you have been sleeping for many hours (not consuming any water)
- Before lunch – Unless I am really thirsty I never drink anymore than 8-oz before lunch. Usually it is a couple of sips as my mouth is dry from all the yelling during the morning classes 😉
- Mid afternoon – By this time I have usually taught a class and done a personal workout so I am fairly thirsty so I will consume 8-oz to 16-oz over the next couple of hours.
- Early evening – Usually during the evening classes I will have a couple of sips of water during the class and around 12-oz of water afterwards.
- Before bed – Usually I drink just a couple of sips to wash down some vitamins. I don’t like to drink a lot of water before bed because I don’t want to interrupt my sleep.
As you can see that is not a lot of water but I feel great! Some days I drink more and some days I may drink less. I drink most of my water first thing in the morning and then between mid-afternoon and early evening. The other thing to note is I drink slowly. Just a few sips here and there throughout the day. There is no need to “slam” water.
Their you have it, start “listening” to your body and only drink as needed, there is no need to force feed yourself water just because some uneducated wanna be fitness professional says that you need to drink a TON of water to be healthy!