Who Let The Doc Out?! #012: Are you hydrating enough? How much water do you really need to drink per day?

How much water do you really need to drink per day? Over the years, the answers to this question have been extremely labile, with researchers and health professionals weighing in with different responses. However, everyone is in agreement on one thing: staying adequately hydrated is very important.

Your body is constantly losing water through breathing, sweating, urination, and dehydration, and so it is important to replace the fluids lost. Without enough water, you can become dehydrated, and in severe cases, you could experience headache, dizziness, confusion, and even seizures.

Benefits of drinking water

Your body is about 60% water, according to U.S. Geological Survey. Water is used in all your cells, organs, and tissues to regulate temperature and maintain several bodily functions. Some of these functions include:

  • Cushioning your joints
  • Excreting waste through sweat and urine
  • Aiding digestion
  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
  • Preventing urinary tract infections by flushing bacteria from your bladder
  • Maintaining a normal blood pressure
  • Maintaining electrolyte balance
  • Regulating body temperature

How much water do you really need to drink per day?

The general consensus on how much water you need to drink every day is eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, which comes up to about 2 liters or a gallon of water, according to health experts.

However, the volume of water your body needs is dependent on several factors like sex, age, and physiological states like pregnancy. Additionally, not all the water your body needs is going to come from drinking pure water alone. Other fluids and foods can be a reliable source of water. In fact, about 20% of your daily fluid intake comes from food.

According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the optimum daily fluid intake is as follows:

  • Approximately 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids for women
  • Approximately 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men

These values cover fluid got from water, other fluids, and food ingested.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women should drink at least 10 cups of water daily, while breastfeeding women require about 12 cups a day. Children and teens need about 6 to 8 cups of water daily.

Other factors that influence how much water you need to drink daily include:

  • Where you live. People living in hot, humid, or dry areas will need more water than the average person.
  • The temperature of your environment. Hotter days will need you to take in more water than cooler months because you are likely losing more water through perspiration, especially if you are outside.
  • Your level of activity. More active people tend to sweat more, so they will need to drink more to make up for the water lost.
  • Your diet. Certain foods like coffee and other caffeinated drinks have a diuretic effect, which means they cause you to urinate more often than usual. You will need to drink more water to replace the water lost because of this. People whose diets are heavy on salty, spicy, or sugary food also need more water.
  • Your health. If you have an illness that causes you to vomit, have diarrhea, or run a fever, you will probably be losing a lot of fluids and need to replace them. Some medications like diuretics also cause excessive water loss through urination.

What foods and drinks count as water?

As earlier mentioned, water intake can include different sources including pure water, other drinks, and foods. Sports drinks, for example, are a great source of water. However, you need to pay attention to the nutrition label and serving size, and do not drink too many at a go.

Fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cabbage, and cucumber are over 90% water while also providing several beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fruit juices, while also high in water, can contain high levels of sugar and calories and so should be taken in moderation.

Beverages like coffee and tea, as well as alcohol, are not the best source of water as they actually cause more loss of water by their diuretic effects, so they should also be taken in moderation.

How do you know you are drinking enough water?

The easiest way to know this is by looking at the color of your urine. It should be clear or pale yellow. If it is dark yellow, then this means you aren’t drinking enough water. You may also have low volumes of urine – the average person should pass at least half a liter of urine a day – and the sensation of thirst as well as a dry mouth. You may also have hard bowel movements.

However, you should not wait for these indicators to alert you to drink your water. Create a healthy daily routine to make sure you are getting your two liters of fluid every day, and your body and mind will definitely thank you for it.

Innocent Immaculate Acan is a medical doctor and writer. She won the Writivism Short Story Prize in 2016 and has published an illustrated children’s book titled The Pearl Trotters in Black, Yellow, Red. She was part of the 2018 class of the Young and Emerging Leaders Project.

Innocent Immaculate Acan