How much water should you drink? What about coffee, tea, juice, or alcohol? In this article I discuss the science behind liquid intake and make some common sense recommendations.
When I researched this article, I quickly realized that there is literally zero science behind water dosage recommendations. It is clear that we cannot quantify the variability of water needs for anyone.
A rule of thumb that I follow to get a rough number is this: Take your weight in pounds, halve it, and then subtract ten percent to arrive at your daily liquid intake in ounces. So if you weigh 200 pounds, then your rough number is 90 ounces of liquid a day. Strive to give yourself the opportunity to drink that much water or more by making sure that you always have water at hand, and sip at it regularly.
If you are exercising in the sun all day, your need could easily be double that number or more. Also, body-fat levels affect your water needs. If you have a high level of body fat, then you will need less water because fat is much less metabolically active and uses less water.
Keep in mind that being dehydrated by even a small amount limits cellular energy production and fat burning capability.
All Liquids Count
You get to count other liquids besides water towards your daily water intake; soup, juice, tea, coffee, etc.
There is meme floating around saying that drinking caffeinated beverages would pull more water out of the body than they were adding; is NOT true! Although not as hydrating as a non-diuretic beverage, caffeinated drinks still hydrated you more than they dehydrate you. You gain more water than you lose, so drink away.
Coffee and Tea
If you are feeling guilty about taking in caffeine, I suggest you read “The Caffeine Advantage: How to Sharpen Your Mind, Improve Your Physical Performance, and Achieve Your Goals-the Healthy Way” by Weinburg and Bealer. One exception: Stay away from coffee and black tea if you have uterine fibroids aka Myomas. Otherwise, enjoy to your personal tolerance, it is safe.
Green tea is more popular than ever in the USA, and has many proven health benefits. It promotes fat-burning, detoxification, and has anti-cancer benefits. However, green tea is also known to pull a lot of fluoride out of the ground, so you don’t want to over do your green tea intake, as even naturally occurring fluoride can make your bones brittle in too high a concentration, and cause hypothyroidism. If your water source already contains fluoride, it may be wise to limit your green tea intake to one serving per day.
Those of you who know me know that I am not a big fan of juice at all, I say eat the fruit instead and gain the blood sugar stabilizing effects of the fiber. Juice is almost always cooked too. But natural juice in small amounts will do you no harm. However, there is a growing body of evidence that fructose, the main sugar in fruit juice may be a culprit in gout and fatty infiltration of the liver. I recommended limiting your total fructose intake to 15 grams per day.
We have known since the original Framingham study that drinking alcohol is protective against plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Now the research evidence is incontrovertible: Alcohol is not only protective against arterial plaqueing, but drinkers also live longer than abstainers, and this effect holds against all forms of alcohol; beer, wine, and hard liquor.
Double Edged Sword
Keep in mind that alcohol is also associated with negative health outcomes like motor vehicle injuries, liver damage, gunshot wounds, and brain damage. Wired.com blogger Jonah Lehrer in his September 2010 article “Why Alcohol is Good for You” attributes the health benefits of alcohol to the socializing associated with it. There is a substantial body of evidence showing that socializing is a big life extender and life quality enhancer.
However, there is also science that indicates that there are physiological benefits to drinking that are separate from the benefits of being social. For instance alcoholics who have a small or no social circle have zero arterial plaque.
Hormesis is the idea that low doses of a toxic substance like alcohol evoke a favorable response from the body’s activation of the metabolic detoxification pathways to eliminate the alcohol. The idea is that, as long as the dose is right, you gain more from the metabolic changes to deal with the toxin than what you lose from the damage induced by the toxin. Hormesis remains a bit controversial in mainstream medicine, but it sounds like common sense to me.
How Much Alcohol Should You Drink
The best science seems to indicate peak benefits at 2-4 drinks per day for men, and 1-2 drinks per day for women. Keep in mind that people are variable; both in bodyweight, genetic capacity are two big factors. Another is nutrient status. Does your diet provide the mineral, vitamin, and phytonutrients you need to properly detoxify alcohol?
Black beans are the richest food source I know of for Molybdenum, the central mineral for the alcohol-processing enzyme “alcohol dehydrogenase”. If you are sensitive to alcohol, try eating black beans on a regular basis to see if that makes a difference for you.
So what to do with this information? Personally, I have decided to take a moderate approach, hoping that I can get the hormetic detox-stimulating benefits and circulatory benefits while minimizing the neuro-toxic and hepato-toxic effects with regular low doses. So, I find myself in the odd circumstance of been trying to develop a drinking habit. I have settled on 1-2 drinks in the evening. I think of it as necessary artery maintenance.
I continue to weigh the evidence indicating that heavier drinkers live even longer than moderate drinkers. Should this trend in the science continue, there might be a good argument for increased alcohol intake. For now, I do enough driving around in cars that it makes sense to stick to low doses.
So there you have it, drink plenty of water, some coffee and tea. Minimize juice intake. Keep good clean water near you and sip throughout the day. Daily alcohol intake will likely make you live longer as long as you stay out of car accidents. Drink and be social for a long and healthy life.