How Much Water Should I Drink?

Water is a vital part to nutrition, but knowing just how much water to drink to maintain a healthy lifestyle is often difficult. The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule governing how much water an individual should drink. The specific amount depends upon a number of factors, including your age, gender, level of activity, and even your environment. A satisfactory water intake for one person may be deficient for another, and the amount of water you need is likely to change several times throughout your life. While the “eight cups a day” long recommended by doctors may hold true for some people, it is far better to look at your own individual lifestyle factors to determine the appropriate amount of water for you.

Lifestyle Factors

Age: One of the most important factors affecting the amount of water you should drink is your age. Children, due to the hydration demands of their growing bodies, should drink a larger amount of water in proportion to their body size than adults. In general, children should be consuming at least six to eight cups of water per day, but water intake should be increased during exercise and long bouts of active play.

As the body reaches adulthood, water demands decrease slightly in proportion to body size, but it is still important for women to consume about nine cups of water and men to consume about 13 cups each day.
Hydration needs continue into advanced age when it is especially important to monitor water consumption, as the body is less able to recognize the signs of dehydration and signal thirst to the brain.

Gender: Your gender is also an important factor affecting how much water you should drink. Men and women require different amounts of water for adequate hydration, due to their different body sizes. Men generally need to drink more water than women (about 13 cups a day as opposed to nine cups a day for women) to support their larger bodies. However, women who are pregnant or breast feeding should be careful to increase their overall water intake to provide enough fluid for the dependent fetus or infant. Expectant women should increase their daily water intake to 10 cups a day, while breast feeding women should be drinking about 13 cups per day.

Activity: While every person has a base level of water he or she needs, this water requirement will vary slightly from day to day, depending upon activity levels. If you regularly exercise or engage in any other activity that causes you to sweat, you will need to drink more water to replace the fluids lost through perspiration and increased respiration. For moderate amounts of exercise (30-60 minutes), an additional 2 cups of water should provide adequate hydration. Long, prolonged exercise may require much more water to replenish the body, depending upon the type of exercise and how much you sweat.

Regardless of the amount of activity, it is important to remember to drink water before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration and fatigue.

Environment: Heat and humidity affect the amount of water you need to drink each day by causing you to perspire more. In humid climates and during the hot summer months in any climate, you should increase your daily intake of water to compensate for extra fluid loss. Two cups more per day for both men and women should suffice, but you should be careful to drink more if you notice any swelling of the skin caused by heat.

In general, your specific lifestyle factors are a good guideline for determining the right amount of water to drink each day. However, it is important to note that these recommendations apply primarily for healthy, moderately active adults. During times of illness (especially if you are vomiting or experiencing diarrhea), it is very important to continue drinking ample amounts of water. The water will help to flush the toxins out of your system and give your body energy to fight off the sickness.

Keeping Yourself Hydrated

To keep your body functioning as it should, you should always closely monitor the amount of water you drink. While thirst is certainly a good indicator of your body’s need for water, you may already be slightly dehydrated by the time you experience thirst. A good rule for keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day is to drink one glass of water with each meal and one between each meal.

While pure water is always the best choice for hydration (it’s both calorie and additive free), all other beverages and most food also contain water and provide some of your daily fluid. Some fruits, such as tomatoes and watermelon, are nearly 90% water and can add variety to your water intake. Sodas, milk, and juice can also make up a percentage of your daily water intake, but you should be careful to limit your overall consumption of these sugary and/or fatty beverages. Caffeinated beverages also provide fluid, but the diuretic nature of caffeine can actually limit your body’s ability to absorb and digest water. Consequently, you should try to limit caffeinated beverages from your diet as much as possible. If plain water becomes boring after a while, sprucing it up with a spritz of lime or lemon juice is a good way to add flavor without adding too many calories.

As you make a daily effort to drink enough water, your body will undoubtedly thank you by staying healthier and naturally regulating your appetite. You will feel better and stay trimmer while keeping your vital organs clean and replenished. Indeed, drinking the right amount of water for you each day is one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective ways to keep you and your body happy, healthy, and productive.


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