How much water do students really need?

Tony Gorder

Tony Gorder

Water. Are you getting enough of it?

“I don’t drink water. I get most my fluids from juice and soda,” said Thomas Connor, a freshman English major from Lexington, Md. “I probably don’t get enough water, but I don’t feel dehydrated or anything.”

Sarah Fliehs, a junior nursing major, is more confident in her water consumption.

“I drink probably four 16-ounce glasses a day on average,” said Fliehs. “I make sure to get enough water. … It’s good for your body.”

Getting enough water is important, and health experts still suggest drinking eight glasses a day.

“The recommendation of eight glasses of water a day is actually a good recommendation,” said Jessica Remington, SDSU dietician. “The average person has 1.5 liters of urine output a day and close to another liter lost through water vapor in the breath from sweating and bowel movements. All of that water needs to be replaced.

“The Institute of Medicine recommends 11.5 to 16 cups of total fluids a day for adults,” she said. “If you take 20 percent away for the water you get from foods, and a few more cups away for milk, coffee, juice, tea or whatever else you drink, that would leave an average of about eight cups a day of water for adults.”

However, not all fluid intake comes from just pure water alone. Twenty percent of fluid intake comes from foods such as fruits and vegetables. Other foods like eggs, fish, chicken and beef consist of 60 percent of water or more, said Remington.

And even though coffee, tea and most sodas contain caffeine, they will still provide hydration.

“Studies show that caffeine can have a diuretic effect (increased urination), but most people do not have to worry about staying away from caffeine unless they are in extreme heat, at high elevations, have a fever, are participating in prolonged exercise or are sweating excessively,” said Remington.

The reason water is recommended over other drinks is because most other drinks contain calories.

“The average person does not need those extra calories, and they tend to add up quickly and may cause weight gain,” said Remington. “Therefore, water is recommended over juice, soda and other sweetened beverages.”

Even though water is a necessity, it is possible to take in too much water. This is called water intoxication.

“Water intoxication occurs when water intake is greater than the body’s ability to get rid of water,” said Remington. “Most cases of water intoxication occur in water drinking contests or during prolonged vigorous exercise when electrolytes are not replenished and large amounts of fluid are consumed. What happens is the volume of the fluid in the cells causes cells to swell, especially brain cells, which can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, blindness, muscle twitching and convulsions with eventual unconsciousness. If treatment is not given, water intoxication can cause death.”

For most, however, getting enough water is the main concern.

“You can tell that you are getting enough fluids if you rarely feel thirsty and you produce between one and two liters of slightly yellow or colorless urine a day,” said Remington.

Remington recommends that students carry water to make sure they are getting enough water.

“When you have water with you, you are more likely to drink it,” said Remington. “You are also less likely to spend money on soda or other beverages from vending machines, and you are saving calories from those sweetened beverages-calories that can add up quickly and cause gradual weight gain.”