With over 100 million Americans facing extreme heat warnings and advisories from California to New Hampshire, staying hydrated is more important than ever.
But the truth is, water is essential for survival no matter what the temps are. That’s because the majority of your brain, heart, lungs, muscles and kidneys are made of water. In fact, up to 60% of an adult’s body weight is water, so it’s clearly crucial to your wellbeing. Meanwhile, there’s no official recommendation for how much water you should be drinking since your hydration requirements include fluid from other sources. But, water is the best way to hydrate. Here’s how much water to aim for and eight easy ways to drink up.
Why you should drink more water
Besides preventing dehydration, water serves several functions in your body. It helps regulate your body temperature, cushions your joints, supports your body’s natural detoxification process and is needed for healthy circulation.
Meanwhile, insufficient hydration impacts your mood, memory, focus and energy levels. One study found that after a short period of dehydration, rehydration led to improved alertness, happiness and mental clarity, which is consistent with other research on the subject. Another study found that upon boosting their intake by 1% daily, people ate significantly fewer calories, and less sugar and sodium. So, it’s clear that drinking water is a healthy and helpful habit.
How much water do you need to drink?
The advice to drink eight cups — or 64 ounces — of water per day is a bit of an urban legend, but it isn’t far off. The actual recommendation is 93 ounces per day for women and 125 for men. However, about 20% of that comes from water-rich foods, like fruits and veggies, leaving your beverage needs at around 75 to 100 ounces per day. That said, there are times you may need more, such as when you’re exercising or outside on a hot day.
Meanwhile, don’t stress about tracking your fluid intake. You’ll probably maintain healthy hydration levels if you drink water when you’re thirsty and with meals. But, if you’re curious whether you’re coming close to the recommended target, consider logging your water intake for a few days using a free tracking app. Alternatively, fill up a water bottle and make note of the amount it holds. Then, keep track of how often you refill. Either method will give you a good indication of your baseline water intake, so you’ll know if you need to aim to drink more.
How can you tell if you’re drinking enough water?
The simplest method of determining if you’re in the right range is to have a peek at your pee. Ideally, it should be clear or pale yellow. Anything darker could mean you’re under-hydrated. Other potential signs you may be dehydrated include feeling weak, dizzy, fatigued or confused. Dry mouth, headaches, muscle cramps and excessive thirst may also be signs you need to up your fluid intake.
8 ways to drink more water
Ideally, most of your fluid intake should come from water. Water has no calories, preservatives, sugar, artificial additives (such as colors, sweeteners, or flavors) or caffeine. Granted, other drinks — even caffeinated ones — can contribute to your fluid needs, but water is preferred over beverages with added sugars and artificial ingredients. Here are some ways to boost your intake.
- Replace sugary drinks. The leading source of added sugar in the American diet is sweetened drinks, such as soda, sweetened tea, sports drinks, lemonade and coffee drinks that include sugary add-ins. Since sugar contributes to so many health problems, it makes sense to replace these drinks with water. If this swap seems too drastic, add a splash of 100% fruit juice to your H20. Unlike added sugars, 100% juice is naturally sweet and provides nutritional benefits.
- Set reminders. If you tend to forget to sip, use your phone to remind you. Set an alarm or reminder to go off at least four times per day, aiming to drink at least 16 ounces of water between those intervals.
- Use a water bottle. Park a water bottle on your desk to remind you to drink up. See how much water it holds to ensure you’re getting what you need. For example, if your bottle holds 17 ounces of water, try to refill it at least four times a day. If you’re filling it less often, you may need to set a phone reminder.
- Have water with meals. If you drink a big glass of water with each of your three meals and drink about 16 to 20 ounces throughout the four time blocks noted above, you’ll stay well-hydrated most days. That said, there are circumstances (such as a workout or a hot day) when you need even more. In that case, bump up the amount of water you drink in your daily intervals.
- Spruce it up. If you don’t love plain water, add some flair. Cucumber, lemon, lime, mashed berries, ginger, and mint are flavorful, healthy add-ins. Of course, this is a short list. Feel free to play around with any fruit, veggie, herb or seasoning you like!
- Drink water when you wake up. You become slightly dehydrated overnight, so it makes sense to start your day with some water. If you’re a coffee-lover, don’t fret. You can get your caffeine buzz before sipping water but make it a habit to get your day off to the right start by drinking a glass of water before breakfast.
- Make festive ice cubes. We eat (and drink) with our eyes, so make your next glass of water extra enticing by adding some pretty ice cubes. There are a few ways to go with this decorative hack. You can make ice cubes out of 100% fruit juice, herbal or regular tea, or, by adding a berry or another bit of fruit, along with water, to each cube in your ice tray.
- Enjoy it flat or bubbly. In terms of healthy hydration, it makes no difference whether you like your water still or sparkling. Despite concerns that carbonated water can erode your tooth enamel, the American Dental Association says sparkling water has about the same effect on your enamel as regular H20. Through the years, there have been signs that carbonated drinks weaken your bones, but that association is tied to soft drinks, not carbonated water. So, if sparkling water helps you stay hydrated — and if it helps you wean yourself off soda — enjoy it. As always, choose one with no artificial flavors or sweeteners.