Why is SparkPeople so obsessed with water? Do I really need 8-12 cups a day?
In general, SparkPeople recommends that people drink 8 cups of water each day. But you might be surprised to know that there is no scientific evidence that everyone needs 8 cups of water per day. In fact, most experts aren't even sure exactly where that recommendation came from. One source of this "myth" may be a 1945 article from the National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Sciences, which noted that a "suitable allowance" of water for adults is 2.5 liters a day, although much of that already comes from water in the foods that you eat.
So why does SparkPeople emphasize water drinking so much? Here are a few reasons:
Most people today drink way too many of their calories from other beverages like soda, juice, flavored coffees and teas, sports drinks, fruit drinks, artificially-sweetened drinks, etc. Drinking 8 cups of plain water a day—in place of, not in addition to—these caloric beverages can help with weight management. Plus, most of these beverages don't offer any health benefits, while water does.
Starting a healthy lifestyle can be overwhelming. Even if you can't exercise five times a week, for example, you can probably still drink water each day. By focusing on simpler goals like drinking water, you can begin to build momentum to reach other goals.
When it comes to weight loss, which is a goal for most of our members, water can also help you feel fuller.
SparkPeople recommends a high-fiber diet. Drinking additional water can help promote regularity and prevent the cramping and discomfort that often comes when you begin eating more fiber.
While you can get a lot of water from foods like water-rich fruits, vegetables, soups and more, following a reduced-calorie diet (for weight loss) means you're eating fewer foods in general. Eating less food means you're getting less water from food, so drinking plain water can help you meet your needs when food alone can't.
SparkPeople recommends at least 3 cardio sessions per week. When you lose water through increased sweating, you need to replace it. Learn more about Drinking Water During Workouts.
SparkPeople recommends 1-3 strength training sessions each week to build lean muscle. Muscle is made up of mostly water, so the more you train, the greater your body's water needs will be.
Some people worry that they could be drinking too much water. Water intoxication results when a dehydrated person drinks too much water without the accompanying electrolytes. You usually need to drink a large volume of water in a very short period of time to be in danger of this, which is why it's not common. If you drink 8 cups throughout the day, you should be fine.
So do you really need 8 cups each day? Like most recommendations, it depends. Everyone's needs are different and dependent on several factors such as: your weight, how much you exercise, how many water-rich foods you eat, the amount of muscle mass you have, the weather (such as heat and humidity) and more. But 8 cups a day is still a good goal for the average person to aim for. The best way to find out how much you need is to check the color of your urine. It should look like you squeezed a lemon in it. If it's much darker, try drinking a little more water. Even if a new study comes out tomorrow that says we don't "need" any water after all, it sure isn't harmful to aim for your 8 cups a day.
The following articles from the Nutrition Resource Center will give you some more information to help you evaluate your own beverage intake:
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