Hungry? Have a drink.

The chances are, you're dehydrated right now. In fact, over 75% of the American population is deyhdrated, and worse still, over 80% know they are. No big deal? Well, it is actually. Lack of hydration can lead to all kinds of problems, including obesity, fatigue and a much higher risk of certain cancers. So grab a glass or three of water and read on.

One of the biggest reasons for some of my own weight gain when I first got to America was dehydration. I came from a very humid climate to a very dry one. And because my thirst mechanism (that sensation that tells you when to drink) was so weak, I was often mistaking my thirst for hunger. A quick snack later and I felt satisfied. But all I had done was increase my salt and fat intake and that just made me thirstier. Which made me hungrier. And thus, the cycle began. What's more, by the time we feel thirsty we are already dehydrated. And by the time we've reached the ripe old age of 30, thirst sensations in the mouth decrease significantly.


According to many sources I checked, including the American Medical Association, roughly one in three Americans mistake thirst for hunger. And that's just the beginning of the story. As human beings are composed mainly of water (blood is 92% water, brain is 72%, lungs are 90%), we depend on it for our vital health and bodily functions.

A good rule of thumb is to halve your weight and drink that as ounces. So, as a 200lb person I should drink around 100 ounces daily. That's roughly one 6oz glass every hour from 7am to 11pm, my average day. It's just a rough guide, but you should at least drink 64 ounces of water every day if you can.

Here's a laundry list of facts I found about that most precious H20.

  • Dehydration is a major contributor to many diseases; conversely good hydration reduces the risk of disease.
  • Chronic dehydration causes: asthma, arthritis, kidney stones, gall stones, hypertension, cardio vascular diseases, weight gain, migraines, loss of muscle tone and digestive complications.
  • Most adults loose between two and three quarts of water a day without exercising.
  • One quart of water is lost during a night’s sleep.
  • Caffeinated drink cause the body to discharge water.
  • Water prevents DNA damage and makes its repair mechanism more efficient. It also increases the efficiency of the immune system in bone marrow, including its efficiency against cancer.
  • Water reduces fatigue, and the incidences of morning sickness in pregnancy. It also helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and constipation.
  • Lack of water is the #1 reason for daytime fatigue and performance reduction.
  • Just a 2% drop in body fluid causes a 20% reduction in mental and physical performance.
  • Drinking water is crucial for weight loss programs.
  • Even mild dehydration can slow metabolism as much as 3%.
  • On a diet? 1 glass of water shuts down midnight hunger.
  • Water makes skin smooth, helps decrease the effects of aging, and gives luster and shine to the eyes.
  • Dehydration prevents sex hormone production, a primary cause of impotence and loss of libido.
  • Water helps prevent memory loss as we age.

Now, before you all rush to the store for bottles of spring water, here's a suggestion. Actually, a plea. The water coming from your faucet is perfectly fine and is considerably less harmful to the environment than the stuff you get in handy plastic bottles. We're experiencing an oil shortage, and millions of bottles end up in land fills daily. So, stick to tap water. If you can't handle the taste, a simple water filter can end that, and they're cheap. Much cheaper than the impact to your wallet, and the environment, from bottled water.

Allow me also to explain what this article has to do with 'living large on a small budget', before I'm inevitably asked that question. If, by simply drinking humble tap water, you can avoid obesity and other serious medical problems, memory loss, fatigue and improve overall job performace...well, I think that's living pretty large indeed.

Time for a refill I think.

A selection of sources (as requested, you will notice such names as the MayoClinic, the EPA and CNN).


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Guest's picture

Wrong, wrong, wrong. There was just a news story debunking the 8 glasses a day myth - no basis for that either. How about drink when your thirsty - that's your body's way of telling you it needs more water.

oh and the bullet point on water and cancer prevention is not just laughable, but insulting.

Guest's picture

I got dehydrated on a hike last summer and ended up spending a day in ICU at the hospital. One day and an ambulance ride cost $30,000. After insurance, my little adventure cost about $4000. Now, I'm a fanatic about keeping hydrated.

Guest's picture

Check new research which refutes what you're saying.

Think about it--there is no mammal which needs that much water; why should homo sapiens?

Linsey Knerl's picture

That while I don't have any scientific evidence to back anything up, I drink when I'm thirsty, and I do fine.  That being said, I have to agree with Paul on the health benefits in general of drinking water.  Sipping water is great for those who are trying to quit smoking (use a straw, and it helps).  It is also good for those who eat out of boredom (sometimes I'll drink hot water in the evenings when I'm watching TV instead of downing a bag of Cheetos.) 

64 ounces is usually gained easily through other decaffinated liquids, not just water, so I don't worry about getting too much lone H20 (plus the water tastes icky where I live.)

Water is good. Dehydration is bad.  And that's the simple point to the whole thing I think.  Prevention is worth a pound of cure, and with cure costing sooo much money these days, I'll take it as a frugal tip.

Thanks, Paul! 



Paul Michael's picture

I always find it amusing to read some of the comments. Especially when sites like Snopes is put up against the AMA. I'm not entirely sure who runs Snopes, it's a good read, but are these people doctors either? And doctors have told us varying falsehoods over the years; red wine is good for, wait, it's, it's good again, in moderation. Oh, and everything causes cancer apparently.

All I can say is this. Since I began drinking more water, I have become more alert at work, I eat less, my migraine attacks have been less frequent, I feel better and I think I actually look better. Use your own judgment, but if you feel ok drinking one cup of coffee in the morning and a soda in the afternoon, I can't fault you.

If you take anything from the article, drink tap water. 

Guest's picture

The very interesting article that all the news stories about 'debunking the water myths' are based one is actually just an extensive literature review. It is short and information packed and as far as I can tell well researched. I would suggest reading it. It is an editorial published by the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Guest's picture

"everything causes cancer" except water apparently. Honestly I have to say that if you are publishing an article that states that five glasses of water a day reduces the risk of breast cancer by 79% I'm going to want a citation to a recognized medical journal.
Where is the link to the AMA's claims?
Honestly very few people are likely to get dehydrated with an average days food and liquid consumption.
If water works for you, great, but don't go touting it as the next medical wonder.

Guest's picture

The truth about water is not just how much you drink or what color it is when it comes out. It is often confused that we need to understand the quantity of water, but what matters most is the quality. Water that has a low ph balance will acidify your body and cause you to get sick and have other health complications. Also, major cities and rural areas with farming have been found to have multiple toxins in the water that are not filtered out properly. So in fact drinking more water in certain areas would be more harmful for you than good.

Don't trust bottly water either, there is an expiration date printed on the side for a reason. The somewhat filtered water is bottled in major cities and then put in plastic bottles that leach out toxins. By the time you drink that water on the date of expiration, it is about 100% toxic and can no longer be drunk safely. New research in bottles have proven that drinking out of glass is the safest and best thing for you.

Lastly, if you want the wonder effects that nature can provide for you. You will probably need to get a filter system that is better than Brita, and alkalizing drops that can be added to the water. The filter takes the toxins out, such as antidepressive and birth control drugs out of the water. The alkalizing drops will up the ph balance of the water to 9.0 which will give you more vitality.

In conclusion, you are all right that it is important to stay hydrated. You will intake some of the water through the food you eat, but it is the quality and not the quantity that will make the greatest difference in your life. Take care and good luck.


Guest's picture

For a while, I was a big soda drinker. I was drinking about two cans a day. Once I decided that I need it to change my diet, soda had to be taken out of the equation.

Now, I mostly drink water. My skin looks healthier, I feel like I have more energy, and from a financial standpoint I'm saving money.

Guest's picture

Are we seriously arguing about how staying hydrated is good or bad for you? Really?

Only in a country such as ours would we dare take issue with drinking water. We should be so lucky.

All of you naysayers - go ahead, don't drink water. Really, don't. It'll do us all a favor.

Guest's picture

I drink tap water all the time. In my area, the water tastes like a bunch of geese were swimming in it but after a while, I stopped noticing the flavor.

Guest's picture

It's all about the Brita filter. I never drank water when I was younger, but now I'm addicted to it. I drink it all day long. In the morning, I need a cup of ice water like some people need coffee.

Guest's picture

@ Kat, I think that the "naysayers" are simply commenting that the amount of water suggested is likely excessive, not that staying hydrated isn't important.
If this had been an article promoting tap water versus bottled water I would have no issue with it.
Personally I would just query someone with little to no medical expertise stating as a fact that water can reduce cancer risk, that most people are dehydrated and that they need to drink large quantities of water daily without a single link or citation.

Guest's picture

I started drinking water when I first heard it "could make you thin", back in the early 90's or so.

Then I got addicted to it! I LOVE it. It doesn't make my mouth sticky (thus, making me MORE thirsty!) like soda does.
It doesn't make my mouth sour smelling like milk does.
It just goes right down, and for the most part, has no taste.
(I admit to being a bottled water water in town tastes HORRIBLE!!! There's a strong after taste to it, AND, when I run the water in the kitchen sink, I can SMELL the chlorine!
So yeah, I drink bottled water because I just can't stand ours.
But when I'm at my Dad's, I drink his water all day, because it comes from his well, and tastes GREAT!

Anyway, my main point is, that I've been drinking LOTS of water everyday, for YEARS now, and it has NOT helped me lose weight, at all. And sometimes when I'm hungry and have no access to food, I get desperate and drink water....which doesn't help me feel full in the least!

But water is good. It's what nature gave us to drink, and if I never drank anything else, I'd be happy.

I've tried to get my kids addicted to water since they were tiny, but somehow they got spoiled with manmade drinks...but I'm still trying!!

It just doesn't really do anything other than quench your thirst and keep your body running smoothy, really. So all the "drink water before dinner to feel full and eat less" dumb.

Guest's picture

I don't know if water can really do everything it's said to do... good or bad... but I just know that I like to drink it.. a lot.

If you want to lose weight drinking water, I think extremely cold water is key... With cold water, your body has to expend calories to bring it up to your body temperature, while taking no calories in. Obviously it's not going to make you lose a ton of weight, but every little bit helps.

I have a 24oz water bottle that I bring to work every day (for me, the fact that the bottle is pink and curvy helps me like the water more hehe). I always go through the first 24 ounces while I'm here at work, and most of the time I go through at least 16oz more before I leave. I get the "thirsty" gene from my father, so it's not too difficult for me to drink a lot in one day.

Guest's picture

I am all about water, and I'm not arguing against you, but I don't think it's very responsible to write an entry based on facts without any sources.

Where did you get all that? Why would I believe it?

Paul Michael's picture

It's amazing, it's like I wrote an article saying beer and cigarettes are good for you. This is water.

Guest's picture

Can you please cite specifically where you got this statistic?

"Just 5 glasses of water every day decreases the risk of breast cancer by 79%, colon cancer by 45% and bladder cancer by 50%."

Paul Michael's picture

from here, but removed it after I could not find other scientific data to back it up. 

Guest's picture

I find it amusing that you mock snopes as a link (granted hardly scientific) when you are citing wikipedia, cybercity and naturodoc as sources.
Also while I don't consider CNN a leading health advice authority the link provided takes you to an identical article as the Mayo link, hardly corroborative.
I actually really enjoy your writings but I think that this is a real case of stick with what you know, or at least refer to your personal experience.
I'd also point out that few of your links refer to original citations either.
If anyone is interested a great evidential review article (and a fairly neutral one at that) on the subject is available online at
Click on the full text pdf link on the right.

Paul Michael's picture

will be called "Oxygen...any good?"

Guest's picture

... that depends will you claim that breathing more reduces the risk of cancers?! ;)

Guest's picture

Paul I agree with you that water is good for you, based on lots of scientific data. Not so much the quantity but quality. Anyways to reply to the Guests comment on your next article baing about oxygen. Oxygen is good for you and will help remove toxins and prevent certain types of cancer. Purified air and steam rooms (saunas) can leech out toxins and clean your lungs from the filth outside. It would be an interesting article. Maybe well have another 20 negative posts about articles.


Guest's picture

I don't get how this entry is somehow being held up to some higher "truth" standards than others.

I think maybe it's because Paul always writes really insightful and useful entries and so we are almost taken aback when there is something we should maybe think for ourselves about. =P

Guest's picture

Too much oxygen is poisonous. See? Everything in moderation. :)

Are you implying that beer and cigarettes aren't good for me? That's brekky!

Guest's picture

I worked with elderly people; a lot of them had problems with their thirst mechanism. They would get mentally a bit slower and more tired than their usual, without any real illness we could find. Then their labs would come back and they would be dry.

Some of the ex-military types I hung out with told me they were ordered while in combat zones to drink water at every rest stop, because people under stress would tend to put off taking a drink. Keeping ahead of the need kept them at peak performance.

When I worked 12 hour shifts in the hospital it was hard to get a break, and you aren't allowed to have drink containers in patient care areas. When we got busy I would go 4 or 5 hours running full out, without realizing I needed to rehydrate. When I started making myself get a couple ounces of water every 2 hours, I felt much better through the day. It is easy to go too long between drinks. The ER doctors told patients that by the time your mouth is dry and you feel thirsty, you are less hydrated than you want to be for optimal health and peformance. Those are my own experiences.

Perfectly valid medical studies may show conflicting results because of unknown variables in subjects and how they behave. People with completely opposing viewpoints may both have reliable sources to back them up, so research does not always yield a final answer.

Thank you, Amy, for the voice of reason. If you are not fluid restricted by your doctor, why not try the suggestions for yourself and find out how it works for you?

I'm going to go put my feet up and have a glass of cool water with a squeeze of lime.

Guest's picture

Next thing you know, the doctor wanabees here will be telling us to drink our own urine.

Guest's picture

I have a Brita pitcher and I LOVE it. Every time I fill up my nalgene bottle I think about how I'm not going to spend $1.25 to get a bottle out of the vending machines on campus.

I also really like my nalgene bottle because it reminds me to drink and it helps me keep track of how much I drink a day.

Guest's picture

Is the current Nalgene controversy over BPA something to consider? Also the plastic container of the Brita pitcher. Or am I being overly paranoid? I LOVE to drink water but these questions worry me...