How Much Water Should You Drink? It Depends!

Of all the nutrients in your diet, water is one of the body’s most essential. However, many people struggle to meet their daily fluid needs. The old advice is to drink 8 cups of water per day, but the reality is that everyone is different. So how much water should you drink a day? It really can vary, even from day to day! Health, activity, gender, exposure to heat, and even what you eat can all impact how much water someone needs.

Water serves many important roles in our bodies and losing even a small percentage of body fluid can lead to a drop in energy levels, weakness, poor mood, and physical performance. Staying well hydrated can help reduce your risk of kidney stones, urinary tract infections, headaches, and constipation as well. Drinking an adequate amount of fluids can help us feel our best and help our bodies to thrive.

To determine how much fluid you should be aiming for each day, take your body weight and divide it in half. This is the amount of ounces you should strive for daily. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, your goal should be around 80 ounces per day (10 cups). How much exercise you do and if you follow a certain diet plan may change these needs.

If you are an athlete or do strenuous exercise you would need to increase your fluid intake to account for losses through sweat. If this describes you, it is recommended to take your body weight and multiply that by 0.66 and that will give you the amount of ounces per day. So, for our 160-pound person above, they would need 106 ounces of fluid per day (13 ¼ cups).

Twenty percent of our fluid needs come from food sources such as fruits, vegetables, soups, grains and dairy products, the other 80% comes from beverages. Our 160-pound person above, needs 64 oz. of fluids (8 cups) from beverages and the rest of their fluid needs would be met with a healthy diet. Many carbohydrate foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are high in water content. In fact, making half of your plates fruits and vegetables at mealtimes can add up to two extra cups of water a day. Eating grains such as oatmeal or brown rice can also increase your hydration levels because of the water they soak up during the cooking process.

Conversely, if you are on a low carbohydrate diet, you may need to increase your fluid intake from beverages because you aren’t consuming as many foods with a high water content and because this type of diet naturally results in loss of water weight. Those following a high-fiber diet are also advised to increase their fluid intake. Fiber absorbs more water in the digestive tract, so the more fiber in your diet, the more fluid you should drink to help with digestion.

Two ways to monitor your hydration is through urine color and sweat loss.

1. Urine Color: The color of your urine first thing in the morning is a good overall indicator of hydration status. Lemonade-colored urine is a sign that you are adequately hydrated. Apple-juice colored urine indicates dehydration. The exception to this would be if you are taking vitamin supplements in the morning, bright colored urine is produced after consuming vitamin supplements.

2. Sweat Loss: Change in body weight before and after exercise is used to estimate sweat loss. It is advised to weigh yourself prior to exercise and then again when you are finished. If you lose weight during exercise it should be replaced with 2-3 cups of fluids.

Some simple ways to increase your water intake include carrying a refillable water bottle, adding slices of fruits or vegetables to water (such as lemon, lime, or cucumber), drinking a glass of fluid with every meal, keeping water to drink by your bed at night, and listening to your body when you are thirsty. 

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