We all know that drinking water and staying hydrated is essential to our health, but how much water do we really need to be drinking every day? If you’re just looking for a straight answer: a good rule of thumb is to drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water for every pound that you weigh – for example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should aim to drink between 80 and 160 oz. of water a day. That would equate to about 5 to 10 Poland Spring water bottles.
However, it’s important to remember that water consumption needs vary from person to person. Below we’ve outlined the major factors that impact how much water we should be drinking, warning signs of dehydration, and ways to spice up your water to make it more palatable.
- Body composition – physiologically, the more we weigh, the more water our body requires to function properly. Those who have increased body mass typically burn more calories in a day and will require more fluid intake than those who are smaller.
- Age – adequate water consumption is important at all ages and life stages, but certain life stages may require us to drink more or less fluids. For example, the water composition of our bodies drops as we age, making it so that older adults require less fluid consumption as they age. On the contrary, life phases like pregnancy or lactation will increase our fluid intake needs.
- Diet – a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables may allow you to cut back a bit on your daily H20 intake. Fruits and veggies – along with soups and smoothies (and even your daily cup of Joe!) – are packed with water and will improve your daily fluid intake with regular consumption. On the flip side, if your diet is low in these foods, drinking more water throughout the day might be necessary.
- Activity Level – the more you move, and the more your sweat, the more H20 your body needs to replace this loss of fluids. It is difficult to determine just how much more water each individual requires based on varying activity levels, but a general guideline to follow is to drink 2-3 cups about 2 hours before exercise, 1 cup right before exercise, and 1 cup for every 15-20 minutes of exercise to prevent fluid loss. Normal thirst will only prompt people to replace about 2/3 of the fluids they lose during exercise – so if you are staying active, it’s important to focus on extra fluid intake and to pay attention to potential signs of dehydration.
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Dizziness, headache or confusion
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Muscle cramps
- Infrequent urination*
*Color matters – checking out the color of your urine throughout the day is a quick and easy way to monitor your hydration status. Urine that is clear to pale yellow indicates adequate hydration, while darker urine (think dark yellow or brown) or urine that has a strong odor, is a pretty sure sign that you need more fluids.
- Add a splash of citrus – squeeze a wedge of lemon, lime or orange into your water to improve taste and get the added benefit of antioxidant from the citrus
- H20 Infusion – add slices of your favorite fruits, veggies or herbs to a large pitcher of water and store it in the fridge for easy access to healthy, flavored water. Some of our favorites to mix and match: cucumber, mint, basil, strawberries, orange, lemon, lime, melon, blueberries, kiwi, raspberry or grapefruit – you really can’t go wrong!
- Invest in a good water bottle – larger, reusable water bottles make it easy to bring your water with you (and refill it!) wherever you go, and help you to track exactly how much you’re drinking every day.
- Don’t knock that cup of Joe – while caffeine has a slight diuretic effect, unless you’re drinking more than about 500mg of caffeine a day, it’s unlikely to dehydrate you, and can actually count toward your daily fluid consumption.
- Still or sparkling? Infused, or plain, carbonated beverages (we’re talking sparkling water or club soda – not to be confused with sugary drinks or sodas!) can be a great way to mix up your water intake. Our current favorite sparkling water, made with real fruit but low in sugar and calories, is Spindrift.
Content submitted by Jessica Roy MS, RD, LDN Registered Dietitian & Nutrition Counselor, and Caroline Meyer, Nutrition Intern