Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So how much water should I drink while at a conference?

Last week, I talked about the importance of staying hydrated while at a conference – whether as an attendee or an organizer – and gave suggestions for how to do so. However, I did not mention how much you should drink, which begs the question of what the right amount of fluid intake is for a person attending a conference. The answer is – all together now – it depends.

Your body needs what it needs. This seemingly unhelpful piece of wisdom is actually quite appropriate when it comes to water consumption. Many people still believe that you need to consume eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day to stay properly hydrated. However, the science behind that statement is completely lacking and, according to, even nutritionists and physicians who specialize in water and hydration do not know where that “rule” came from.

If you lose 80 ounces of water throughout the day, then, yes, you need to take in roughly the equivalent of about ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day because you need to replace what you have lost. But even that figure is somewhat misleading. After all, (1) it doesn’t need to be water, though that is usually the best option; and (2) you actually can get much of your daily fluid intake from food as well.

How much water do you get from food? According to this article by the Mayo Clinic, your food typically accounts for about 20% of your daily fluid intake. If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, then you are getting a higher percentage of water from your food than usual. The more water you get from your food, the less you need to actually drink.

What liquids, other than water, can you drink? Just about anything in a typical diet. Coffee, tea, juice, soda, milk – even beer and wine – can all count towards your daily intake of water since they are comprised primarily of water. Now, that is not to say that these are optimal replacements for water, nor should they make up a large portion of your total intake, but they do count towards the total – which is something usually ignored or overlooked by those pushing the “eight 8-ounce glasses of water” rule. Water is still generally the best choice, though: it is “calorie-free, inexpensive, and readily available” (Mayo Clinic; italics are mine).

Don’t forget, too, that other factors come into play as well. How physically active are you on a given day, what is the weather like, how humid is it, what physical conditions do you have, etc. are all key factors. These and other factors feed into the question of how much water you should drink daily. And the answer may be vastly different each day… Pay attention to what your body is telling you and, most of the time, you will be on track to drink enough water

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises