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Why you need water and food


Next to air, water is the element most necessary for survival and therefore a top priority. A normal adult is 60 to 70 percent water.  We can go without food for almost two months, but without water only a few days.  Yet most people have no idea how much water they should drink.  In fact, many live in a dehydrated state.

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Without water, we'd be poisoned to death by our own waste products.  When the kidneys remove uric acid and urea, these must be dissolved in water.  If there isn't enough water, wastes are not removed as effectively and may build up as kidney stones.  Water also is vital for chemical reactions in digestion and metabolism.  It carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells through the blood and helps to cool the body through perspiration.  Water also lubricates our joints. We even need water to breathe:  our lungs must be moist to take in oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide.  It is possible to lose a pint of liquid each day just exhaling.


So if you don't drink sufficient water, you can impair every aspect of your physiology.  Dr. Howard Flaks, a bariatric (obesity) specialist in Beverly Hills, Calif, says, "By not drinking enough water, many people incur excess body fat, poor muscle tone and size, decreased digestive efficiency and organ function, increased toxicity in the body, joint and muscle soreness and water retention."
Water retention?  If you're not drinking enough, your body may retain water to compensate.  Paradoxically, fluid retention can sometimes be eliminated by drinking more water, not less.
The minimum for a healthy person is eight to ten eight-ounce glasses a day," says Dr. Flaks.  "You need more if you exercise a lot or live in a hot climate.  And overweight people should drink in an extra glass for every 25 pounds they exceed their ideal weight. The human body is composed of 25% solids and 75% water.  Brain tissue is said to consist of 85% water.


It has become a practice to regard a "dry mouth" as a signal of body water needs, which is further assumed to be well-regulated if the sensation of "dry mouth" is not present.  A dry mouth is the last outward sign of extreme dehydration, however.  Damage occurs to the body at a persistent lower level of hydration.  Because of a gradually failing thirst sensation, the body becomes chronically and increasingly dehydrated. Signals of dehydration can be any of the following symptoms:

  • Heartburn, stomach ache
  • Non-infectious recurring or chronic pain
  • Low back pain
  • Headache
  • Mental irritation and depression
  • Water retention ( ironic but true! )

Further problems often develop when the sensation of thirst urges an intake of water, and instead, soda pop, coffee, or alcohol-containing beverages are taken to quench the thirst.  While these beverages contain water, they are actually dehydrating fluids.  Not only do they eliminate the water contained in them, but they also cause you to lose further amounts of water from your body's reserves!

Daily Water Requirements:  Drink 50-75% of your body weight in ounces.  Sedentary people: 50%;  Active people: 75%
Example Calculation:

Pounds of body weight
Water requirement from above (75% of body weight for an active person)
Add for dryness of climate
Add for strenous exercise

150 lb.
112.5 oz.
+ 16 oz.
+ 16 oz.

Total per day

144.5 oz.

Divide by the number of hours you're awake to find your hourly water requirement: 144.5 ÷ 16 =

9 oz.

Therefore, a 150-pound active person who works out should drink 9 oz. of water for each hour awake.


If activity is reduced, healthy people can survive on half their usual intake for an extended period and without any food for many days.  Food, unlike water, may be rationed safely, except for children and pregnant women. If your water supply is limited, try to avoid foods that are high in fat and proteins, and don’t stock salty foods, since they will make you thirsty. Condensed from PARADE, Leroy R. Perry, Jr. FEMA 477, (A5055) (PDF File)

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