How much water should I drink?
Have you ever wondered “how much water should I drink?” If so, this blog post with tips for hydration is for you.
Did you know that your body is made up of 60% water? That is why this nutrient is so essential to life. We need water each day to help carry out vital functions in the body. If we do not drink enough water we become dehydrated which can lead to overheating, constipation, headaches, kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Water keeps every system in your body running smoothly from your respiratory tract to your digestive system. The largest organ in the body, our skin, relies on water to keep it looking its best by maintaining plumpness and elasticity. Water is essential to maintaining our body’s homeostasis by keeping things such as our blood pressure and body temperature in check.
How much water should I drink?
Believe it or not, there is not one gold standard for daily water requirements. Recommendations are likely based upon water recall and median water intake among healthy individuals and weak population studies on water intake and urine osmolality.1 It is difficult to determine hydration status from a urine sample as it is indicative of most recent water intake and not long-term hydration status.1
Hydration needs vary based on age, gender, level of activity and health status. For instance pregnant or breastfeeding moms have higher fluid needs. There are certain medical conditions, such as renal disease, that would require specific hydration requirements. Additionally, individuals with a fever require higher fluid intake.
For the average healthy individual here are two quick rules of thumb:
- To answer the common question, how much water should I drink for my weight, take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half to determine roughly how many ounces you should be consuming per day. For example, a 150-lb individual would need around 75 ounces of water per day (150lb/2 = 75oz) with more water factored in depending on level of physical activity.
- Various organizations have set recommended daily water intakes, however there is no one set amount that covers all age groups, environmental conditions, physical activity, etc. The World Health Organization recommends approximately 12 cups of water per day for men and approximately 9 cups per day for women.2 Again this would depend on age, climate, activity, etc.
Lastly, if you are still questioning your hydration status there’s always the urine test. You want your urine to be pale yellow in color. If it is dark yellow to amber this indicates that you need to consume more water.
What about exercise?
During exercise we lose water through sweat. If you are curious how much water you should be drinking to compensate for sweat losses you can do an easy sweat test. Weigh yourself before and after strenuous exercise. For every pound of weight lost during exercise drink 14-16 ounces.
Keep in mind that levels of dehydration of just 2% (of body mass) negatively impacts physical performance.3 Not only follow the guidelines above, but be proactive and drink before you are thirsty. By the time you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.
Tips for hydration
Not a big fan of water? Or do you simply have difficulty meeting your daily needs? Here are a few tips to help you stay hydrated.
#1- Infuse your waters.
This may be my favorite. I love playing with fruits and herb combinations to naturally flavor my water. This way I am avoiding any dyes, artificial sweeteners and “natural” flavors (that are not so natural) that manufacturers sneak into flavored waters.
Here are some fun combinations to play around with:
- Berry Basil- blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and basil
- Pineapple Basil
- Rosemary Grapefruit
- Watermelon, Cucumber, Mint
- Lemon Thyme
- Classic spa water: Lemon, Lime and Cucumber
- Orange Jalapeno – for those of you who like a little kick. And I’m not going to lie…part of me wanted to add 100% agave silver tequila and sparkling water or kombucha to this one instead of water for a cocktail!
Literally the options are endless. I wanted to do so many more to include mango, cantaloupe, dragonfruit, pomegranate and lavender as ingredients. The good news is that I have all summer to play around.
#2- Set a timer.
There are some great apps where you can set a daily water goal and set timers throughout the day accordingly to meet your goal. Or you can forego the app and set your own reminders throughout the day. Either way, a little technology never hurt anyone with some goal setting.
#3- Add a smoothie to your day as a meal or snack.
Smoothies are made with a liquid base, therefore adding a smoothie to your daily intake is a great strategy for staying hydrated. Adding coconut water from time to time is even better to sneak in some electrolytes.
#4- Carry a water bottle.
Seems like a no brainer but sometimes we don’t think about it. If you get into the habit of taking one in the car or wherever you go then you will always have your hydration needs within reach!
#5- Eat foods with high water content.
That’s right…food counts toward your fluid goals as well. The average person probably gets about 20% of their daily fluid needs via the foods they eat.1,4 A few examples of foods high in water content are melons, leafy greens, cucumbers, citrus fruits, celery, grapes, carrots, cooked squash, pineapple and cabbage.
Now go set some hydration goals and start crushing them! It may just be the missing piece you need to up-level your physical performance and energy levels!
For more tips and recipes follow along at @whollynourishedrd on Instagram
1. Popkin, Barry M et al. “Water, hydration, and health.” Nutrition reviews vol. 68,8 (2010): 439-58.
2. Sui, Zhixian et al. “Water and Beverage Consumption: Analysis of the Australian 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey.” Nutrients vol. 8,11 678. 26 Oct. 2016, doi:10.3390/nu8110678
3. Murray, Bob. “Hydration and physical performance.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 26,5 Suppl (2007): 542S-548S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2007.10719656
4. Gordon, Barbara. “How Much Water Do You Need.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eatright.org, https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/how-much-water-do-you-need. Accessed May 2020.