How Much Water Should I Drink a Day?
We all know we should be drinking water (not to mention water that is free of toxins), but it can be confusing to know exactly how much. The human body is made of upwards of 60% water, and not drinking enough water can lead to a myriad of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, brain fog, dry skin, irritability, overeating and much more.
What’s more, we are constantly losing water via urine and sweat, and there are times when we’ll need to drink more water than usual. Opinions differ on exactly how much water you should drink. 8 glasses a day? Half of your body weight in ounces of water? Should you drink during meals? Should you be sipping water constantly throughout the day? Let’s take a look at some of the facts.
First and Foremost: The Importance of Drinking Water
Before getting into how much water you should drink, let’s look at why you need to drink plenty of water, period. Studies show that even a somewhat insufficient water intake negatively affects concentration, mood and energy levels, and can cause headaches (1). Even mild dehydration can impair cognitive function, as well (2). As if this weren’t enough, check out some other important reasons to stay hydrated:
Dehydration is one of the leading causes of constipation. Remember that constipation isn’t just a minor annoyance, but can pose serious health problems over time such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures and pain (among others) (3). Studies show that drinking plenty of water can prevent and help to treat constipation (4).
Drinking enough water also reduces your risk of kidney stones (5). Kidney stones are caused in part by a diet high in sodium and those that are obese and/or live in hot climates where dehydration is more common are at higher risk (6).
Many sufferers of acne and other skin problems find that the simple act of increasing their water intake can make a significant difference in their skin health. While more studies are needed, most health experts would agree that staying hydrated is important for your skin.
Some studies show that drinking plenty of water can help to prevent rectal and bladder cancers (7).
Will Drinking Water Help me Lose Weight?
Another nice side effect of staying hydrated is that water has actually been shown to support weight loss efforts. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces of water at one time can increase your metabolism by 24-30%, which is quite significant (8). Water also works to curb your appetite, and many nutritionists would agree that excessive hunger and/or cravings is often simply dehydration in disguise.
What Beverages Can I Also Drink that Count Towards My Total Fluid Intake?
While nothing should replace your water intake, veggies and fruits with a high water content are also helpful to stay hydrated. Drinks such as herbal teas, coconut water and even coffee (in moderation) can also help, but water should always be top priority (especially if you sweat a lot).
So, How Much Water Should I drink?
Really, there is no exact science to tell us how much water we need, and this need will also vary among individuals. The 8 X 8 rule (eight glasses of eight ounces) is slightly arbitrary (8), as well as the rule that claims you should drink half of your body weight in ounces of water (although if these work for you, they both are excellent ways of getting plenty of water).
The best marker of how much water you should be drinking is thirst. If you are thirsty, drink water. If you are overly hungry and craving carbs or sugar, try drinking water first to see if perhaps you are actually thirsty. If you are in a hot climate where you sweat a lot or are an endurance athlete, you’ll need to drink more water than the average person and possibly replenish electrolytes.
If you are thinking “but I’m rarely thirsty, so do I not need to drink water?” the answer to that is: yes, you do. If nature’s perfect way of letting us know how much water we need doesn’t seem to be working for you, in that case go by the 8 X 8 rule, or simply have a water bottle by you at all times and sip frequently throughout the day.
Try to not drink massive amounts of water with meals, as this can disrupt proper digestion. Take small sips if needed, or simply drink your water in between meals.
Make Sure You Drink Clean Water Free of Toxins
Last but certainly not least, make sure the water you are drinking is free of toxins, which likely means using a water filtration system (a reverse osmosis filter is the most effective). City drinking water supplies can be problematic in some cases, so be sure to fill your glass with the most nourishing water possible.