Who to believe? Is this in addition to other food and drink? And anyway, if it’s eight glasses a day – how big is a glass? I have huge ones!
(If only there was a handy app that could tell me exactly how much fluid my body really needs…)
Here’s the different expert advice you’ll currently find out there:
1) 2.5 – 3 litres a day
So say WHO – the World Health Organization. They should know, right? Two – three litres a day seems to be the accepted rule. But they do caveat this with ‘depending on environmental conditions’ and ‘under normal circumstances’. Uh, but what’s ‘normal’? What ‘conditions’? Obviously this is a valiant catch-all attempt at giving every single person around the world one sound bit of clear, sensible advice. The trouble is that we’re all different shapes and sizes, we all live different lifestyles in different parts of the world – can it really be the same for all of us?
2) 1.6 litres a day for women, 2 litres a day for men
The European Food Safety Authority recommends LESS than the World Health Organization. What’s that all about?
3) 1.2 litres a day
The UK’s Food Standards Agency says this equates to about six to eight glasses but acknowledges that we need to drink more if it’s hot. Even so, this is even less than the European Food Safety Authority (and no difference between men and women as far as they’re concerned). Does this mean that the whole 2-3 litre thing is a massive over-estimation? Have we all been told to drink TOO much water?
4) The 8×8 rule (8 x 8 ounce glasses a day)
This is effectively the same as the 2-3 litres recommendation. But while investigating this for the BBC, Dr Chris Van Tulleken realised that supposedly scientific literature supporting this rule was, in fact, more marketing than research – the article was supported by a manufacturer of mineral water. And who would trust a commercial brand making health claims!? (Yes – I am aware of the irony here, but we just want to know the truth as much as you do!)
Further to this, Heinz Valtin, MD tried to debunk this idea back in 2002 when he found no scientific evidence to support the 8×8 rule.
5) Only when I’m thirsty
Not to worry you or anything, but if you’re feeling thirsty this can mean that it’s too late – you’ve already become mildly dehydrated. The trick is: don’t get dehydrated. Simple. It’s not good for you. The best way to tell if your body needs water is the colour and smell of your pee. Clear urine, no smell = well hydrated, dark yellow to orangey/brown and smelly = dehydrated. So waiting ’til you’re thirsty is not the best rule to follow, neither is waiting ’til you’ve got smelly brown pee – your objective is to always have lovely clear, odour-free pee.
So what’s the answer? Obviously by now we’ve realised there isn’t a simple, straightforward answer for all. It’s the old ‘it depends’ scenario.
Our plain-speaking favourite, Dr Chris Van Tulleken argues: ‘You don’t need to worry about exactly what that total daily requirement is because your body will sort it all out for you. If you drink too much you pee it out. If you drink too little you get thirsty and pee less. It’s all exquisitely well-controlled.’
But does this ‘not too little, not too much’ approach give us complete confidence? Or have we developed an unhealthy dependency for an ‘expert’ to prescribe exactly what to do and not trust our own bodies? Or is it just me?
The clearest advice we’ve come across so far is from Dr Mark Berman, one of the people behind a new smartphone app, Pryme, that aims to help you hydrate intelligently – with the help of a cup, the Vessyl, that can analyse and keep track of your daily fluid intake (yes – really!).
‘The reality is that our needs are very complex and they depend on a whole host of factors.’ says Dr Mark. ‘While the body does a good job of generally staying regulated it can be very hard for us to remember how well we are doing in feeding our body the amount of fluids that it needs.’
Finally – we have a little helping hand that acknowledges that we don’t all listen to what our bodies tell us all the time. This new app proclaims to work out our own personal hydration needs based on gender, age, height, weight, geographical factors (temperature, altitude, humidity), sleep schedule, diet, types of beverages we consume, as well as activity and exercise patterns. Is that specific enough for us?
I’m sure there’ll be other hydration apps out there soon (H20-Pal is also in development) all hoping to give us our own personal answers to the ‘how much water should I drink?’ question – because the answer is: it’s different for everyone.
How much water do you drink in a day? Do you feel that you drink enough? What colour is your pee? Does it smell? Would you go for a hydration app to help?
by Bob Fear
- 5 ways water makes you gorgeous
- 6 adverse affects of not drinking enough water
- The scary truth about dehydration
- Top 10 reasons to drink more water
- Top 10 water myths busted
images from Getty