We know that drinking adequate amounts of water is necessary to avoid dehydration. And that makes us wonder, ‘how much water should I drink a day?’
In this article, we’re going to give you a roundup on all the information you need to maintain optimum hydration.
Water: The Basic Necessity of Life
Water is the main component of the cells and tissues present in your body. It makes up about 60 to 75% of the average adult human body. This includes most parts of your brain, lungs, heart, skin, and muscles, and even about 30 percent of your bones.
Besides being an important element of the human body, water also helps your body to function properly. It helps regulate your internal body temperature, participates in metabolic processes to provide energy, transports nutrients to all the body cells, eliminates waste via the kidneys and digestive tract, lubricates joints, forms saliva, and even serves as a shock absorber to protect vital organs and a growing fetus inside a mother’s womb.
This makes it clear that proper hydration is the key to life. Water is necessary to keeping everything functioning in our bodies and helps us stay alert and energized.
But, how much is enough? The amount of water you need to drink everyday depends on a number of factor,s such as your body weight, activity level and your individual needs.
How Much Water Should I Drink a Day?
You must have often heard people saying to take 8 glasses or about 2 liters of water each day when you ask them, ‘how much water should I drink a day?’ But is this claim based on any scientific evidence? The answer is no!
When it comes to answering the question: ‘How much water should I drink a day?’, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The daily water intake varies from one person to another, with a number of different factors that need to be taken into account.
A 2002 review of studies concluded that despite the widespread and easily remembered ‘8 glasses a day’ rule, there is a lack of scientific proof to back it up. Water needs can vary from person to person. Here are some common factors that can affect your water needs.
- Exercise and Activity Level – People who exercise or do rigorous activity sweat more and burn more calories, which uses up water. This makes it necessary for them to consume more water on a daily basis in order to avoid dehydration. However, the exact requirement can vary, depending on the level of activity, muscle mass, and the climate they live in. Generally, they should drink up to 2 glasses every hour if they sweat profusely.
- Health Conditions – The 8-glass rule mostly works for healthy people. It can possibly be too much if you have certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, liver disease or heart issues. Thyroid disturbances can also affect your water needs. Similarly, if you’re suffering from vomiting and diarrhea or running a fever, you will need to up your fluid intake.
- Medications: Similarly, if you’re on certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants, or opiate pain relievers, your body can be retaining water. Other types of medicines like diuretics can make you lose more water. Therefore, it’s better to consult with your doctor to understand your daily water intake needs.
- Climate and Temperature: The warmer and the more humid the climate you live in, the higher will be your water needs. As you sweat and perspire, you need to replace the water you are losing. This also means that your water needs will change from season to season.
- Diet: Diets with high salt or sodium content may require more water to eliminate that sodium. On the other hand, if you eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more fluids, your daily water needs will be lower.
- Gender – Men and women have different water needs. The Institute of Medicine recommends a total of 13 cups of fluid each day, while women need 9 cups of fluid.
- Pregnant or Nursing Moms: Just like pregnancy and lactation can affect the dietary needs of women, the same happens with their water needs. Pregnant or nursing moms have to drink more water to meet their daily requirements. Pregnant women should drink up to 10 cups of water daily. Moms who breastfeed need about 12 cups each day.
How Much Water Should Children Drink?
Just like adults, the daily water requirements for children can also vary, depending on their weight, age, and gender. Other factors like what climate they live, how active they are, and what kind of diet they take can also play a role.
In general, children and teenagers should drink about 6 to 8 cups of water a day. In addition to that, they should also eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that are good sources of water.
During play time or exercise, your should goal should be to drink a half cup to 1 cup of water every 30 minutes or so.
Foods That Count as Water
The recommended values for daily water intake is not just for drinking plain water. It basically includes all sources of water and represents the overall fluid intake that should be taken. It covers plain water, along with water obtained from foods and beverages.
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of water. Cucumbers, watermelons, grapefruits, tomatoes, zucchini, iceberg lettuce, celery, strawberries, blueberries are over 90% just water. Thus, if you have problems drinking plain water, you can add more of these to your diet.
Similarly, fresh fruit juices, smoothies, yoghurt, coffee, tea, soups, etc., are also high in water content. Even though tea and coffee also contain caffeine, which makes you lose more water, they still do contribute to your water intake.
How to Tell You’re Drinking Enough Water
Maintaining a good level of hydration is essential for your survival. That’s the reason why your body already has a proper system for regulating when and how much water you drink. Therefore, many healthcare experts recommend that you trust your thirst instinct to control your daily water intake.
Keep water handy at all times so you can sip in some every time you feel thirsty. However, a lot of times, your brain can mistake thirst signals for hunger. So, whenever you’re feeling hungry, it’s a good idea to get a cup of water before you eat food.
Certain circumstances call for increased water intake. If you’re doing strenuous physical activity or experiencing increased sweating due to hot weather, you need to replenish your body fluids by drinking more water than usual. Athletes who do long and intense workouts, therefore, have to maintain a much higher water intake.
Furthermore, older people may need to consciously watch how much water they’re taking. This is because thirst mechanisms can start to malfunction with age.
Signs of Dehydration
Not getting enough water can make you dehydrated. Severe cases of dehydration can cause dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and even seizures.
There are certain indicators that indicate you’re not drinking enough water.
- Urine Color and Frequency – Urinating every 1.5 to two hours is normal and your urine should have a pale yellow color. If your urine is a dark amber color and your urine frequency is going up to every 6 hours or longer, you’re most likely dehydrated. Thus, you need to increase your water intake.
- Dryness – When you’re dehydrated, your skin starts feeling super dry. Other signs of a dehydrated body include dry mouth, chapped lips, lack of tears, etc.
- Skin Elasticity – Your skin is also a good indicator of hydration. Try pinching the skin on the back of your hand, hold it for a few seconds, and then release it. If it goes back to its original state instantly, you’re fine. But, if it takes a bit longer, you’re probably dehydrated. Your skin generally appears dry, dull, and lifeless when you’re not drinking enough water. That’s why higher water intake is often recommended for tighter-looking, glowing skin.
- Headache – When your hydration levels go down, the blood volume is also reduced. This can possibly affect the oxygen supply to your brain. Reduced oxygen supply may lead to frequent headaches.
- Muscle Fatigue – In a dehydrated state, your muscles get weaker. They lose their tone and are more prone to spasms and cramps. Muscular fatigue, pains, and cramps are all signs of dehydration.
- Bad Breath – Dehydration is often associated with bad oral hygiene and a stinky mouth. This is because of saliva production due to low hydration. Saliva has antimicrobial properties so it controls the odor-causing germs inside your mouth.
In addition to all these, rapid breathing or heartbeat, sunken eyes, delirium, and fever are all signs of severe dehydration. Low water intake also increases your chances of getting kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and constipation.
If you experience any of these signs, you must increase your water intake and also see medical help in case of any severe symptoms.
To Sum Up
We hope that with all this information, you now know the answer to ‘how much water should I drink a day?’
There is no specific value for the amount of water you need every day. However, in general, keeping your water intake within 6 to 8 cups is a good way to prevent dehydration. However, your needs can change, depending on the factors we discussed in this article.
If you’re otherwise healthy and have a normal activity level, a good rule of thumb is to pay attention to your body and drink water when you feel thirsty.