By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
- A simple and easy to remember hydration strategy: drink half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water per day.
- Elite athletes may want to follow a more sophisticated strategy, but this simple formula works well for most healthy adults, teenagers, and adolescents
Last week I provided an update on heat illness warning signs and in the post recommended that all individuals follow a good hydration strategy. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, so it makes sense that hydration should be a good component of overall health.
But there is a lot of noise out there on exactly the type of hydration strategy to follow. What should you drink? How much should you drink? When should you drink? Here’s an easy to remember hydration strategy that is gaining a lot of traction amongst healthcare professionals as well as athletic performance specialists: take half your body weight in pounds, and drink that amount in ounces of water every day.
Hydration is critically important for all human body functions
Given that such a large percentage of the human body is made up of water it shouldn’t be surprising to read that every function in the human body is affected by hydration status.
The most common issue for people is typically dehydration or under hydration. When dehydrated you can end up feeling groggy or mentally foggy, it can decrease your overall energy level, and even decrease muscle strength and resiliency. This would typically lead to decreased performance in everyday activities as well as athletic endeavors.
Few high quality published medical studies about hydration in normal individuals
There is quite a bit of published medical research about proper hydration and fluid balance in specific medical conditions, such as burn victims, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease. At the other end of the spectrum there is also quite a bit of excellent published research about sophisticated hydration strategies for elite athletes.
Where the research is lacking, however, is in practical scientifically validated strategies for normal adults, teenagers, and adolescents. The following recommendation is based on reasonable available research, but not on rigorous scientific study.
A simple strategy that should work for most healthy people
It’s easy to get caught up in marketing claims about the superiority of one different type of water, sports drink, or performance drink over another. You should definitely avoid anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, and there may be benefits to adding electrolytes to water. But for the vast majority of people good old-fashioned plain water should suffice.
For decades, healthcare professionals and nutritionists have quoted the “8 cups of water a day” rule for most healthy adults. That equals 64 ounces of water. That rule has been around for a long time because it’s pretty close to being on the mark.
But even with the scant available current evidence we’d conclude that would probably leave you a little bit under hydrated if you are for instance a 150-pound adult or teenager. It’s generally a little bit better to be slightly over hydrated than under hydrated and with that in mind this 150 pound person would probably be better off drinking at least 75 ounces of water per day.
Give it a try and see what you think. It’s easy to remember. If you haven’t been drinking this much water in your normal day I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how it improves mental clarity, daily tasks, and athletic performance.