You’ve probably been told that you need to drink more water. Better hydration can help prevent headaches, stave off hunger, improve your complexion, and get you through the two o’clock slump. So, how much water should you drink in a day?
The exact answer seems to be elusive, is it an ounce for each pound you weigh? 8 glasses a day? A gallon of water each day? Let’s take a look.
Water is Essential to Our Bodies
Water is the most important chemical for our bodies, it is the most plentiful component of the human body, making up about 60% of us. It assists in keeping our body temperature steady, keeps our joints cushioned, and lubricated so they can move smoothly, protects our tissues, and eliminates waste from our bodies through sweat, bowel movements, and urination.
Because water is used for so many functions, even a slight case of dehydration can leave you feeling tired, cause headaches, and leave you feeling drained of energy. So, how much water should you drink in a day to stay hydrated?
How Much Water Does a Healthy Adult Need Each Day?
This is actually a bit of a moving target, it depends on the climate, the gender, the activity level of the person, and the overall health of the individual.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine did come up with a general guideline for an average adult male and female in a temperate climate. Their recommendation is:
- Fifteen and a half cups a day (3.7 liters) of water for males
- Eleven and a half cups a day (2.7 liters) of water for females
This intake can be water, other beverages, and food. On average, about 20% of our daily water consumption comes from the food we eat.
Great, Now I Know How Much Water I Should Drink Each Day
Well, not quite. Like I said above, the recommendation is a bit hard to nail down and the average for a typical male or female in a temperate climate is just a guideline. How much water you should drink each day can be pretty individualized.
For example, if you exercise, play a sport, or do physical work that makes you break sweat, you’ll need to up your water intake before, during, and after to insure you stay properly hydrated. If the physical exertion lasts more than an hour, you may want to replenish electrolytes perhaps with a sports drink, enhanced water, or a supplement.
If the weather is hot, humid, or you are at a high elevation you probably will want to increase your fluid intake as dehydration may happen through sweating or because of the altitude.
There are some health issues that require more frequent hydration as well. Some of these are infections that cause fevers, vomiting or diarrhea that can interefere with your electrolytes and cause dehydration, bladder infections, or kidney stones.
Pregnant or breast-feeding women also will need additional water, up to 13 cups a day according to the Office on Women’s Health.
How Do I Know I’m Getting Enough Water? How Can I Get More?
One of the best indicators of hydration is the color of our urine. If your urine is pale yellow or close to clear then you are most likely right on target with your fluid intake.
Another clue is your own thirst. If you don’t find yourself feeling thirsty often, you are probably getting enough water throughout your day.
If you find that you are perhaps a little on the dry side and are having a difficult time getting enough water in there are several things you can do to help. I’ve put together a list for you.
Download an app to help you track your intake and remind you to drink up.
We use our smartphones and tablets for almost everything these days and there are a ton of great apps out there to help you stay on track with your hydration.
If you find yourself having a hard time keeping track of how much water you are getting in a day or remembering to drink enough water each day, a digital assistant may be the key. Thankfully, Healthline put together a great list of apps so you don’t have to guess which ones will work for you.
Carry water with you and make it your go-to drink.
I increased my water consumption by always making sure I had some with me. At home I have a special tumbler that is just for my ice water. I always have it nearby and fill it whenever it’s low.
When I need to go anywhere I have an insulated water bottle that I take in the car, I also bought some for my husband and son so that we have cold water to drink in the car and aren’t tempted to stop for soda or other sugary drinks.
If you make sure that you always have water handy, it’ll be easier for you to remember to drink it and to drink it before reaching for a soda or other beverage. While you do get to count other fluids as water intake for the purpose of hydration, water itself is still superior health-wise to soda or sugary juice drinks.
When you feel hungry drink a glass of water first.
Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, and while we do get up to 20% of our fluids from what we eat, it is far better to hydrate with the actual thing. If you drink a glass of water at the first sign of hunger, not only will you potentially be warding off dehydration, but you may be cutting down on some unneccessary calories.
Make water a part of your routine.
Just like with any habit, if you add drinking water to your routine on a daily basis it will eventually become rote. There are several times that you could add in some hydration.
Drink a water or non-sugary drink with each meal and between each meal. If you exercise, drink a glass of water before, during, and after your workout. I always start and end my day with a glass of water, I take medication in the moring and at night so it’s a perfect way to remember to get some water in.
Make water more appealing.
There are so many ways to jazz up plain old tap water if you struggle with the taste or get bored with drinking regular water. There are a ton of no-calorie mix-ins that you can buy but my favorite way is to naturally infuse water.
You can simply add cucumber slices, fruit slices, or herbs to pitchers of water. This allows the flavors infuse into the water. There are also pitchers that keep the add-ins separate from the water. This makes it so there are no bits and pieces in what you drink. For single servings, you can get water bottles that do the same thing.
Of course, you can also drink beverages that are not just water. I drink a lot of unsweetened tea, green, black, and herbal teas. Sugar-free drinks like sodas, Crystal-lite, and diet fruit juices are also an option; however, you have to weigh the possible side-effects of artificial sweeteners. For some people, they may trigger migraines or cause other unwanted issues.
Now you know, roughly, how much water you should drink in a day. We’ve seen how important it is to your health and learned ways you can stay more hydrated. I hope that this article has been helpful. When I increased my water intake I saw improvements in a few areas.
I had fewer migraines. Honestly, it wasn’t a huge decrease. I could tell that dehydration was a definite trigger for some of my migraines. I also felt like I had more energy and overall just felt more alert.
My favorite improvement though, and maybe most vain, was how much better my skin looked. I replaced my really serious Diet Coke habit with water and my skin perked up really quickly. It was brighter, plumper, and looked so much healthier. I even saw a marked difference in the ever-present dark circles under my eyes!
If you decide to increase your water intake, let me know how it goes. What improvements did you see? What tips helped you remember to get your hydration in? I love to hear from you!