Drinking Water – How Much Is Too Much?


Drinking water can help you avoid dehydration, but when you consume too much water, your kidneys can not get rid of the excess. This can leave you wondering how much water is too much to drink in a day, or even an hour.

Consumption of more than 3.7 liters (125 oz) of water per day for men, and more than 2.7 liters (91 oz) per day for women is considered too much water. Consumption of more than 1 liter (34 oz) per hour can also cause hyponatremia (water intoxication/poisoning) in adults, because the kidneys can only process 800–1,000 ml (27–34 ounces) each hour.

Drinking too much water, known as water intoxication/poisoning or hyponatremia can disrupt brain function, leading to confusion, nausea, headaches, vomiting and even death. So it is important to know just how much water you can safely drink.

This article covers how much water is too much for adults, athletes and children, the short and long term effects of excess water consumption and the initial symptoms to look out for that will signal water intoxication. Medical conditions and medications that can substantially change the amount of water you can safely drink in a day are also discussed.

Exact Volumes of Water That are Too Much for Daily or Hourly Consumption

While drinking water is essential for human consumption, drinking too much of it affects the human body. How much water we are supposed to consume per hour or even per day depends on different factors. It depends on the age, gender, or physical activities of a person.

Women/Men

Approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of water for men is too much in a day. On the other hand, around 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of water for women is too much.

In excessive heat and humidity, the human body can only absorb roughly one liter (about 34 fluid ounces) of water per hour. Most of the time, you can only absorb approximately half of that amount and not much more than that.

Therefore, consuming more than that hourly/daily is likely too much.

Athletes/non-athletes

For athletes, the amount of liquids to drink during endurance races is a point of contention among experts. Several athletes consume 5-10 ounces (150-300 milliliters) of fluid every 15-20 minutes, whereas experts often advise athletes to drink not more than 13-26 ounces (400-800 milliliters) every hour. 

As an athlete, you gain experience, and you will recognize your fluid requirements and drink appropriately. This can also be achieved through careful calculation and consumption of electrolytes combined with your fluid intake.

For non-athletes, they should drink water normally because their bodies are not as active, and there is no excess sweating or loss of water. Simple daily exercise does not qualify you as an athlete, in this regard.

Children/Adults

It is crucial to remember that children should not drink more than the number of 8-ounce cups of water appropriate for their age, with a maximum of 64 ounces for children over 8.

Consuming more than that may be too much for them an disrupt their electrolyte balance. If you are unsure about your child’s specific needs then you should always consult your family doctor or a paediatrician.

AgeMaximum number of cups (8 oz)
11
22
33
44
55
66
77
8+8

These figures do not account for any additional beverages children may consume throughout the day.

For adults, drinking 3 liters (100 ounces) of water may be too much for some people, as it might disturb your body’s electrolyte balance and cause hyponatremia. Your kidneys can excrete 20–28 liters (4.5–6 gallons) of water per day, but they can only process 800–1,000 ml (27–34 ounces) each hour.

Short Term Effects of Drinking Too Much Water

Nausea and Vomiting

Drinking too much water can cause fluid overload and imbalance in the body. Excess water can cause the body’s salt levels to drop, which can cause nausea and vomiting. Hyponatremia is the medical term for this disorder.

Headaches

Both overhydration and dehydration can cause headaches. When you drink too much water, the amount of salt in your blood decreases, causing the cells in your organs to enlarge. Headaches are caused by the enlargement of the cells, especially in the head.

Muscle Spasms and Cramps

Electrolyte levels drop when you drink too much water, and the equilibrium is thrown off.

Symptoms such as muscle spasms and cramps can occur when electrolyte levels are low.

Fatigued and Tiredness feeling

Your kidneys are in charge of filtering the water you consume as it passes through your body and maintaining a healthy fluid balance in your bloodstream. Excessive water intake can lead to lethargy and exhaustion. Your kidneys may have to work even more hard if you drink too much water, causing a stressful hormonal reaction that leaves your body stressed and exhausted.

Too Many Trips to the Toilet

You tend to pee a lot when you consume a lot of water at once. When you drink too much water, your body can not absorb it hence the many trips to the toilet.

Long Term Effects Of Drinking Too Much Water

Causes Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a reduction in sodium levels in the blood serum below 135 mEq/L.

Sodium is an essential salt that aids in cell signaling and a variety of other bodily functions. It occurs as a result of rapid overhydration. As a result, your serum sodium levels drop, and your body’s functioning changes. Although rare, it may result in death under challenging situations.

Effects on the Brain

Hyponatremia, or a lack of sodium in the blood, can induce swelling in the brain.

As a result, speech impairment, disorientation, walking instability, psychosis, and even death can occur.

Kidney Dysfunction

Kidneys are vital body organs that perform several essential functions to the human body, including balancing body fluids.

As a result, if you drink more water than your kidneys can retain and excrete, they will become overwhelmed. When excess water dilutes your blood’s salt concentration, it sets off a chain reaction of bodily dysfunction difficulties.

Acute kidney injury can be caused by drinking too much water.

Bladder Issues

Excessive water drinking can exacerbate Overactive Bladder symptoms(OAB) by increasing their frequency and severity. Drinking when you are not thirsty demands more muscular effort than drinking when you are thirsty.

Drinking too much water causes chronic peeing (polyuria), leading to bladder distention and other internal plumbing issues.

Minor, Moderate, and Severe Effects of Drinking Too Much Water

Water is essential to human health, thus staying hydrated should be a top priority for anybody who wants to live a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, drinking too much water can have various negative consequences, ranging from moderately unpleasant to life-threatening.

Minor Effects of Drinking too much Water

  1. Frequent urination.
  2. Too much water leads to urine changes. You may have a crystal clear color of urine when you visit the washroom.
  3. Excessive water intake can lead to unexplained headaches.
  4. Overhydration may result in having a nauseous feeling.
  5. Too much water might cause muscle weakness.
  6. Dry mouth and lips.

Moderate Effects of Drinking too much Water

  1. Diarrhea: Mainly caused by Hypokalemia – the reduction in potassium ions in the body.
  2. Drinking too much water can induce a drop in sodium levels in the blood, causing the body’s cells to expand and retain fluid.
  3. It leads to electrolytes imbalance. Potassium, sodium, and magnesium are electrolytes that help your kidneys and heart operate properly. These critical functions are disrupted when you drink too much water.
  4. Having muscle cramps and a bloated stomach.
  5. Fatigue.

Severe Effects of Drinking too much Water

  1. Risk of coma – The central nervous system and systemic organ damage resulting from water intoxication might result in coma, especially if you consume a large amount of water in a short period.
  2. Death – Cerebral edema, or brain swelling, as well as other organ shutdowns, can be fatal in severe situations. Although deaths from excessive water consumption are rare, they have occurred during over-rehydration following sports participation and military training scenarios.
  3. Risk of Chlorine Overdose – If you treat your water with chlorine, drinking too much of it can put you at risk of chlorine overdose. You are more likely to develop bladder and colorectal cancers in the long run.
  4. Overburdening of the heart – The heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout your entire body. When you drink too much water, the volume of blood in your body expands. The increased blood volume puts undue strain on the heart and blood arteries. It can also cause seizures in some people. In dialysis patients, excessive hydration might cause heart failure.

Initial Signs Of Drinking Too Much Water

Too much water causes water intoxication, which is a disruption of brain function.

Excess water consumption results in the amount of water in your blood increasing, and the dilution of electrolytes in the blood, particularly sodium.

Hyponatremia is a condition in which sodium levels fall below 135 millimoles per liter (mmol/l).

This results in fluids migrating from the exterior to the inside of cells, with the excessive water levels in the cells, particularly the brain cells, causing them to expand. When brain cells swell, pressure increases in the brain.

Changes in the Color Of Your Urine

Monitoring the color of your urine and how often you go to the bathroom are the first signs of your hydration state.

If your urine is completely clear, you are drinking too much water in a short time. You may need to spread the time over which you drink or acknowledge that you are consuming too many fluids altogether.

Nausea and Vomiting

When you drink too much water, your kidneys become unable to excrete the excess fluid, and water begins to accumulate in your body.

This can result in various unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Throbbing headaches

When you drink too much water, the percentage of salt in your blood drops, and water starts to seep into the cells.

The cells in your organs enlarge to make room for the extra water.

Because the brain is confined in the skull, there is no room for expansion, and brain cells expand, pressing themselves against the inside of your skull. This increased pressure can result in a pounding headache and more severe health issues such as brain damage and breathing difficulties.

You are Drinking Water even though you don’t feel thirsty

When you find yourself drinking water even though you are not thirsty, for whatever reason, this is; maybe due to the desire to stay hydrated. The truth is that you are consuming far more liquid than your body requires, and this could lead to overhydration.

Swelling or discoloration in your hands, lips, and feet

People with hyponatremia frequently feel swelling or discoloration of their hands, lips, and feet.

When all of the cells in your body enlarge, your skin will noticeably swell as well. Excessive water drinkers may gain weight quickly as a result of edema and excess water in the bloodstream.

Restlessness and Irritability

Drinking too much water might induce muscle weakness. These symptoms may appear if the salt in your blood is diluted, causing restlessness.

Fatigue

If you are getting adequate sleep but still feel drowsy, overhydration could be the culprit.

An electrolyte imbalance in the body due to drinking too much water can lead to a lack of energy, drowsiness, or a persistent sense of exhaustion.

Cramping and Muscle Spasms

Cramping is a result of electrolyte imbalance, particularly low sodium. Muscle cramps, weakness, and spasms are common side effects of overhydration.

Altered Mental State and confusion

A sensation of bewilderment or disorientation is one symptom of overhydration or water intoxication.

This is connected to a drop in electrolyte levels in the body. It is possible that drinking too much water causes symptoms like confusion, seizures, or loss of consciousness due to the swelling of cells in the body.           

Pre-existing Health Conditions/Medications that Alter the Amount of Water that would be Too Much

Potassium-sparing or Thiazide diuretics

Diuretics are medications that promote the excretion of salt and water from the kidneys, hence increasing the volume of urine produced. Diuretics come in a variety of forms, each of which works differently.

Thiazide diuretics prevent sodium re-absorption at the distal convoluted tubules’ commencement. Potassium-sparing diuretics prevent excessive potassium loss in the convoluted tubules at the distal end.

High blood pressure is treated with diuretics, which are medications. They are also called ‘water pills.’ These medications assist your kidneys in excreting excess water and salt from your body through pee.

The pressure inside your blood vessels will be lower because you have less overall fluid in your blood vessels. It is also easier for your heart to pump as a result of this.

One of these medications’ adverse effects is that you may become dehydrated, and merely drinking additional fluids may not be enough for you. Pay attention to symptoms such as dry mouth, constipation, dizziness, and headaches.

Too little or much salt can throw off blood chemistry or potassium in your system. Diuretics can make it challenging to maintain blood sugar control, which might lead to diabetes or gout.

Because certain diuretics also deplete potassium levels, you may need to eat additional K-rich (Potassium) foods, such as spinach, or take a potassium supplement.

It’s highly recommended you talk to your doctor to know which diuretics you are using, why, and when you should take them.

Suppose you are using a “potassium-sparing” diuretic such as amiloride (Midamar) or triamterene (Dyrenium). In that case, your doctor may advise you to avoid potassium-rich foods, salt replacements, low-sodium milk, and other potassium sources.

A potassium-sparing diuretic combined with a thiazide diuretic is employed to treat edema caused by salt and water retention in the heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs.

Kidney Disease

For people with kidney illnesses or any other conditions that limit their body’s capacity to drain extra water, they must stick to the doctor’s fluid consumption recommendations.

Doctors are the ideal people to examine and know your body and its health needs. To avoid a severe electrolyte imbalance, your doctor may tell you to reduce your water intake. 

At first, most persons with chronic kidney disease can drink as much as they want. Many people release less and less fluid when their kidneys’ performance deteriorates.

If you drink too many fluids, they will not be able to exit your body quickly enough. That causes edema and a rise in blood pressure.

How Much Water Can Kill You?

Although there are no clear rules concerning how much water could kill you, consuming more than your body requires is detrimental for your overall health. Water intoxication can lead to seizures or loss of consciousness in more severe cases and is not treated promptly.

A Californian died in 2007 after drinking nearly two liters of water in a radio station contest. Matthew Carrington, a Chico State University student, was killed in a similar event in 2005 when he drank too much water during a fraternity initiation.

Is It Rare To Die From Overhydration?

It’s uncommon for people to die from overhydration, but it has happened. Because the brain swells up so much when sodium levels reach a substantially different figure from the normal range, you can die. The brain stem presses on the base of the skull, causing you to stop breathing.

Death as a direct result of excess water consumption is rare because you must drink a lot of water in a short amount of time, which most individuals find challenging to do. People at risk are endurance athletes or those who engage in a lot of rigorous physical exercise.

How Much Water Should I Drink Per Day?

There is no simple answer because the “appropriate” amount of water varies by person, depending on age, sex, activity level, and other factors like height, weight, temperature, diet, and where you live. Your doctor can assist you in deciding what amount is suitable for you.

There are many different perspectives on how much water you should drink daily. Health professionals frequently recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, or around 2 liters, or half a gallon, of water each day.

For instance, you will need to drink extra fluids to stay hydrated if you are outside on a hot day or doing something that causes you to sweat a lot. If you have an ailment that causes you to vomit, have diarrhea, or have a fever, the same applies.

You may need to reduce your fluid consumption if you have a condition like heart failure or a particular form of kidney illness.

Adults/Children

The amount of water that children require is determined by various factors, including their age, weight, and gender. Other factors to consider are how healthy and active they are and the climate in which they live.

You can give water to babies from around the age of 12 months. Children aged 1-3 years require roughly 4 cups of drinks per day, including water or milk, to stay hydrated.

For older youngsters, this increases to approximately 5 cups for 4-8-year-olds and 7-8 cups for older kids.

Older children, on average, require 6 to 8 cups of water each day. Drinking a half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes during play or activity is an excellent objective.

They should also consume plenty of water-rich fruits and vegetables. For instance, watermelon and cucumber are water-rich fruits. 

Athlete/Non-athlete

There are a lot of different opinions on how much an athlete should drink. As a sportsperson, you know how crucial it is to stay hydrated. When it comes to what amount of water athletes should consume, it depends on various factors. That includes body type, gender, weight, and body size.

Other factors may include; height, type of exercise, age, athletic ability, weather conditions, time of day you exercise, sweat level, and other beverages you consume throughout the day.

It is also crucial for athletes to understand how much water they should take throughout each exercise phase before, during, and after exercise.

Before exercise- an athlete should drink 17- 20 fluid ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercising, and another eight fluid ounces 20-30 minutes before starting your workout.

During exercise-Take a stop and drink water during exercise to avoid excessive fluid and electrolyte loss. 

After exercise-Your aim after exercising is to replace all of the fluids and electrolytes you lost during your workout. As a result, choose a fruit or vegetable that is high in water. Take, for example, watermelon.

Female athletes should drink roughly eight and a half ounces (8.25 oz) of water per day, equating to 4.0 liters. Male athletes should drink approximately 5.7 liters of water each 16 oz water bottle (11.7 oz).

Men should drink roughly 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids per day if they are not physically active, whereas Women should drink about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluid every day.

Men/Women

The CDC typically follows the 2004 National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommendation that males drink 15.6 cups of liquids per day and women drink 11.4 cups.

According to this advice, most healthy adults meet their recommended water intake each day, which is still in use by the CDC, the Mayo Clinic, and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) in their 2017 reports.

According to a June 2013 study published in the annals of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, adults with normal kidney function should consume 27 to 33.8 ounces of water each hour.

Conclusion

This article has walked us through the repercussions of water intoxication. We also discovered no formal rules for how much water one should drink to avoid becoming overhydrated. As a result, it is everyone’s responsibility to track how much water they should drink to stay healthy and avoid water intoxication.

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