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The Internet is a powerful source of information, especially when it comes to health. Most often, when we have a question about a diagnosis, condition, symptom, or anything health-related, we turn to a search engine. This is especially true when it comes to weight and diet questions.

“When people want to lose weight or improve their diet, they can certainly find plenty of ways to do that online,” said family medicine physician Cassandra Tunis, DO, Geisinger Pittston. “However, a lot of what’s out there is less than accurate or contradicting.”

Two questions people turned to the Internet for in 2015 deal with our weight and health – “how much water I need each day?” and “How many calories do I need each day?”

Here are the answers.

How much water do you need?

“Water is essential to your body – every system in your body depends on it,” Dr. Tunis said. “Water is responsible for flushing toxins out of vital organs, carrying nutrients to cells, and providing a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.”

If you’re trying to lose weight, drinking enough water can help your metabolism work properly to help you during your weight loss journey.

When you don’t get enough water, it can lead to dehydration. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and drained of energy.

“If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated,” Dr. Tunis said. “Sometimes your body can’t tell the difference between hunger and thirst – you may be feeling hunger pangs when you really are in need of some water.”

The best and easiest way to figure out how much water to drink is to divide your weight in half – the number you get is how much water in ounces you should consume each day.

“Some factors in your daily life may signal you to drink more water,” Dr. Tunis said. “If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, exercising and sweating, living in a hot and humid environment, or if you have a fever, are vomiting or have diarrhea, you need more water.”

These lifestyle and environmental factors all cause you to lose more fluids each day.

“Water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated – vegetables, fruit and unsweetened beverages can also help you meet your daily hydration needs.

How many calories do you need to eat?

Unlike water, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for how many calories to consume every day.

“How many calories you need is based on your age, weight, height, activity level, health status and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding,” Dr. Tunis said.

The best way to determine the most accurate amount of calories you should take in is to see a registered dietitian nutritionist, who will be able to tailor the amount of calories and types of food you specifically need. There are also many different calorie counters available online that can help you keep track of what you’re eating and your exercise or activity level.

However, if the reason you want to know how many calories you should be consuming is because you want to either lose weight or simply make sure you’re eating healthy, calories shouldn’t necessarily be your main focus.

“If you’re trying to lose weight, calories in versus calories burned is important, but what those calories are is more important,” Dr. Tunis said. “Consuming balanced and portioned meals consisting of whole, nutrient-rich foods is better for you and will help you lose or maintain weight in the long run.”
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