There are a lot of “rules” and myths floating around on how much water you should drink. Some people believe you should drink half your body weight in ounces. In that case, if you weigh 200 pounds you should drink 100 ounces of water/day (not true). The “standard” is 8 glasses, or 64 ounces.
However, you should let YOUR BODY tell YOU how much water to drink.
Can You Drink TOO MUCH Water?
YES. And it can be fatal. You heard me right – deadly. Drinking too much water can literally KILL you.
Earlier this year, a 28-year-old California woman died after competing in a radio station’s on-air water-drinking contest. After downing some six liters of water in three hours in the “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” (Nintendo game console) contest, Jennifer Strange vomited, went home with a splitting headache, and died from so-called water intoxication. -source
Unfortunately there is SO much misinformation floating around about how much water you should drink. I see people doing “water bombs”, which means guzzling large amounts of water at once as a means to consume the amount of water they were told they needed. This really concerns me. It’s important to know the FACTS…
Understanding Water Intoxication
Water intoxication, also known as water poisoning or dilutional hyponatremia, is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside safe limits by over-hydration.
Under normal circumstances, accidentally consuming too much water is exceptionally rare. Nearly all deaths related to water intoxication in normal individuals have resulted either from water drinking contests in which individuals attempt to consume large amounts of water, or from long bouts of exercise during which excessive amounts of fluid were consumed. Moreover, water cure, a method of torture in which the victim is forced to consume excessive amounts of water, can cause water intoxication. –source
“Young, healthy people don’t normally [get hyponatremia] unless they drink liters and liters of water at once, because your kidneys can only [expel] about half a liter at most an hour,” says Chris McStay, MD. He’s an emergency medicine doctor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “You’re drinking more than your kidneys can pee out.”
The warning signs of hyponatremia look a lot like the symptoms of heatstroke and exhaustion. You might be hot, have a headache, and just feel crummy. Other early symptoms can include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. –source
At the onset of this condition, fluid outside the cells has an excessively low amount of solutes (such as sodium (hyponatremia) and other electrolytes) in comparison to that inside the cells causing the fluid to shift through (via osmosis) into the cells to balance its concentration. This causes the cells to swell. In the brain, this swelling increases intracranial pressure (ICP).
It is this increase in pressure which leads to the first observable symptoms of water intoxication: headache, personality changes, changes in behavior, confusion, irritability, and drowsiness. These are sometimes followed by difficulty breathing during exertion, muscle weakness & pain, twitching, or cramping, nausea, vomiting, thirst, and a dulled ability to perceive and interpret sensory information.
As the condition persists, papillary and vital signs may result including bradycardia and widened pulse pressure. The cells in the brain may swell to the point where blood flow is interrupted resulting in cerebral edema. Swollen brain cells may also apply pressure to the brain stem causing central nervous system dysfunction. Both cerebral edema and interference with the central nervous system are dangerous and could result in seizures, brain damage, coma or death.–source
That’s enough to scare the pee out of you, right? haha 😛
Hyponatremia translates as “insufficient salt in the blood.” -source
* Some symptoms of water intoxication are similar to those experienced during low carb flu. This is why it is recommended to sip on chicken broth, for the electrolytes (the same reason you drink chicken broth when you are sick). You want to increase your sodium and/or electrolytes to help with the symptoms of keto flu.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
Let your body be the guide. Your urine should be a very pale yellow. If it’s any darker, you should drink more water. If your urine is any lighter than pale yellow, or clear, you are drinking too much water. This is the ONLY way to know if you are drinking enough water. Or “getting” enough water, I should say – as some of your water comes from other sources…
Some foods have exceptionally high water content, so you are getting water / hydration from the foods you eat as well as the actual water you drink.
Low Carb foods that are very high in water content include:
– iceberg lettuce
– green peppers
There is very little actual research, and varying evidence, that drinking water to lose weight actually works. One article I read said “research says that water helps to break down fat more effectively.” Even this article on Seeker (previously Discovery News) includes a lot of “might” and “maybe” wording, and they focus mostly on the concept of drinking water before meals to feel less hungry – and eat less food. However, that’s not necessary on the Low Carb Diet since it’s not a portion or calorie-restrictive diet.
You should eat when you’re hungry, and drink when you’re thirsty.
Drinking too much water can actually make you feel more thirsty – it’s one of the symptoms of water intoxication. So “how much water should I drink?” – the answer is, as much as it takes to quench your thirst and keep your urine at a pale yellow color consistently. Period.
Lynn Terry aka @LowCarbTraveler