Q: How much water is too much? I’ve heard that you should drink six to eight cups a day, but I’ve also heard that this amount will drown my body.
–Catherine Ngai, Toronto, ON
A: “On average people need about six to eight cups of fluid a day,” says Amanda Schwartz, a registered dietitian with Toronto’s Balance in Motion. “Remember, though, that fluid doesn’t just mean just water—it can be any fluid you have throughout the day.” So that means popsicles count, too, she points out, along with the hot soups you eat in the winter. “Foods such as fruits and vegetables that have a high amount of water will also add to your daily fluid intake,” says Schwartz.
She also notes that you’ll want to keep in mind that you may need to increase your fluid intake depending on certain factors. “You need to add about one and a half to two cups for short intense exercise, and more than that if your workout is longer than an hour,” says Schwartz. Other situations that should have your hydrating more often? Hot or humid environments, or if you’re fighting an illness that causes a fever, vomiting and/or diarrhea. “And if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding your needs increase as well,” she adds.
How to tell if you drink too little, or too much water, though? Schwartz details symptoms of dehydration including a dry or sticky mouth, low or no urine output, inability to make tears, sunken eyes and grayish skin. As for over-hydration, “it’s most often related to a medical condition rather than drinking too much liquid,” says Schwartz. “Common symptoms include swelling in the legs or in the lower back of people who are confined to their beds, and shortness of breath.” If you notice any of these symptoms Schwartz recommends contacting your doctor.