“You are only drinking too much water when you are drowning.”
Mark McKoy, 1992 Olympic Gold medalist, 110m Hurdles, 15-time Canadian Hurdles Champion
Your body is made up of mostly water. A healthy, moving body needs plenty of water to replenish fluids lost during exercise and basic metabolic functions. We recommend at least three litres of water per day to hydrate your body and prevent dehydration and premature fatigue. Because thirst is not a good indicator of fluid needs, we suggest drinking as much cold water as you can during exercise.
The fact is if you can’t seem to quite get rid of that excess weight, even though you eat right and exercise at the intensity, frequency and duration proper for you, chances are you're probably not drinking enough water.
You’re not alone in this. Recent studies indicate that nearly 80% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated, and most of us carry around more weight than we would if we were drinking enough water.
Here is how it works: your liver is the key organ that metabolizes or burns fat into energy. It also pulls double duty and picks up slack for your kidneys, which need plenty of water to work properly. Since your kidneys are often deprived of the right amount of water, the liver has to jump in and pull a double shift, so to speak, doing their work along with its own, which lowers its total productivity. It then can't metabolize fat as quickly or efficiently as it could when the kidneys were doing their job. If you allow this to happen, you're setting yourself up to store increasing amounts of fat.
But wait, you complain loudly.
It’s too much! I’m going to the bathroom all the time, and that just does not work for me.
What’s happening is that your body is getting rid of all the excess water it has been storing throughout all those years of survival mode; the excess weight around your middle, your ankles etc. It may take some time, but this is a good thing. As you keep giving your body all the water it needs, it gets rid of what it doesn't need: the water it was holding onto in your ankles, hips, thighs, and belly. Your body finally figures out that it doesn't need to save these water deposits anymore; it now operates on the premise that the water will keep coming, and if it does, eventually, the flushing (of both the body and the bathroom) will stop, allowing you to return to a normal life free of excessive trips to the bathroom, and excessive deposits of unsightly fat on your body.
This is known as the "breakthrough point."
Oh yeah, when you drink more water, you also tend to eat a bit less, because often times when you have felt hungry, your body was really thirsty, and you just confused the signals.
You need to drink 1L per 50 lbs of body weight (more if exercise for a long time, or sweat a lot, or hot humid day), or about 1 cup every hour or so, sipped slowly not guzzled down.
But can you drink too much water?
Yes, and if you do it will stress your kidneys and lead to mineral deficiencies. However, some common sense is also required. For example, a 300lb person should probably not drink 6L of water a day, but then when you think about it, that same individual also has a higher amount of blood volume so their fluid requirements are higher than someone who weighs 150lbs.
Also, diuretics (coffee, cola, black tea) dehydrate your body, and you need 2 cups of water per cup of these just to rehydrate properly. Again, this increases water requirements for some, i.e. heavy coffee drinkers.
Additionally, sweating and being in hot environments depletes your body of water and it is necessary to replenish those stores, thereby increasing the demand for water by your body. Not that this is a danger to most Canadians in November, but it is something to think about.
However, if you eat a low processed food diet, a diet that is high in fresh fruits and veggies (especially raw ones), will need less water than someone eating a lot of carbs and/or protein, because the water content of the food is higher in the first case.
Everyone is unique. Just as it is bad to get too little water, it is bad to get too much. Also, the way water is drunk makes a difference. If it is sipped slowly, it will not stress your kidneys and will help rehydrate, whereas if it is gulped quickly will have the opposite effect.
Lastly, initially when you begin increasing your water intake (which should still be a gradual process), you may find yourself needing to pee more frequently, however, with time, and again if the water is sipped, this need will decrease and you may even find yourself craving more water.