Good question—and also the topic that Americans Googled the most at the start of the New Year.
When it comes to weight loss, there is so much information online that it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Am I going to have to weight my food? Do I really need to pretend to like the taste of kale? How much water should I be drinking?
That last question—it turns out—was one of the most Googled of last year.
There has long been a myth that we need to be drinking eight glasses of water per day, but the experts have started debunking this.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” explains Maria Bella, MS, RD, CDN, CPT, founder of Top Balance Nutrition. “Half of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages count towards our water intake and beverages such as milk, herbal teas and soups also add up. So on any one given day you may need more or less than eight cups of water.”
Finding what is right for you may take a little experimentation—and will definitely depend on your level of activity—but there are a few ways to make sure you get enough water.
“One strategy is to monitor the color of urine,” suggests Katie Kissane, MD, RD, CSSD, a registered dietician at University of Colorado Health and owner of My Nutrition Coach, LLC. “If urine is a clear or light yellow color, that can indicate proper hydration. If urine is a dark yellow or burnt orange color then that indicates dehydration.”
Kissane notes that certain vitamin supplements can change the color of your urine, so if that is the case, she suggests you set a goal based on hydration recommendations—”the 2004 Dietary Reference Intake recommendations for water identify the Adequate Intake (AI) for water to be 3.7 L/day or 16 cups/day in males (130 ounces per day) and 2.7 L/d or 12 cups/day for females (95 ounces/day)”—and then carry a water bottle marked to measure liters or ounces. “I encourage clients to drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning to kick-start hydration,” she adds.
Why is this information important if you are trying to lose weight? Because water can actually help you shed pounds. And staying hydrated is a key component, so you can tell when you are actually hungry or when you may just need something to drink.
“Our brain, hypothalamus specifically, is not smart enough to differentiate between thirst and hunger,” notes Bella. “we may think that we are hungry when we are actually just thirsty.”