Growing up, you were probably told that eight glasses of water a day was just enough to keep you hydrated. But, as you got a little older, you may have realized just how hard it is to down 64 ounces of water a day.
How much water you need will depend on your activity level, body weight, and other factors. In most cases, women should drink over 74 ounces of water a day. For men, 101 or more ounces of water is sufficient. Not getting enough water puts you at risk for dehydration.
The amount of water you drink per day can play a vital role in your health and fitness. So, let’s go over why the body needs water, how much you need, and how to drink more water.
Why The Body Needs Water
Water makes up at least 60% of your body. Some organizations suggest the true number is more than 70%.
In fact, your heart, brain, kidneys, muscles, and other organs and systems are actually made mostly of water. That means you need to be drinking enough water to keep your body’s water stores at an appropriate level.
When you’re drinking enough water over the course of the day, you’re really targeting your health from all angles.
That’s because water….
- Helps your body to remove harmful toxins and waste through urination and sweat
- Lubricates your joints and provides ample joint cushioning
- Allows your body to maintain its temperature through perspiration (sweat)
- Keeps your tissues cushioned and protects them from shock
- Encourages better nutrient absorption within the body
- Promotes greater heart functioning (like a more stable heart rate and blood pressure)
Basically, water is responsible for keeping your body at optimal health. So, not having enough water in your system can absolutely be dangerous for your health.
The Dangers of Dehydration
You’ve probably been dehydrated before at some point in your life.
You may have felt your heart racing, like the world around you was spinning (dizziness), and maybe you even passed out.
Even though mild dehydration is pretty easy to treat with extra water or a sports drink with added electrolytes, severe dehydration can really impact your body’s ability to function and can even be deadly.
What to Look For
One of the easiest ways to know that you’re dehydrated is by taking a look at your fluid intake during the day. If you’ve only had a cup or two of water by the end of the day, you might be able to tell that you’re dehydrated without having to feel the symptoms.
However, for the most part, symptoms are pretty common.
So, here’s what you might experience if you’re dehydrated.
- Dizziness or even fainting
- Lack of urination or very dark-colored urine
- Dry mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue or extreme tiredness
- Lack of skin elasticity
- Low blood pressure
Dehydration causes the body to limit its functioning or begin to shut down entirely.
In the process, here are some effects that might occur.
- Less fluid in the brain, meaning a lack of brain cell functioning
- Water retention, which places excess strain on your kidneys and your heart
- Lack of temperature control, so your system will begin to overheat
- Less overall blood volume, leading to shock or cardiovascular shutdown
Severe dehydration, typically a result of no water intake for several days at a time, can actually kill you within a period of 3 to 6 days. That’s why hydration is incredibly important.
The Risk of Overhydration
So, you see now why water is so important to your overall health and your body’s ability to function. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should down gallons of water every day to prevent these effects from occurring.
In fact, drinking too much water won’t maximize the effects of water at all.
It can actually prove to be quite dangerous, sometimes being diagnosed as a condition known as water intoxication.
What to Look For
Water intoxication actually involves “poisoning” your body with too much water, in a sense, drowning your entire system. But, before you begin to suddenly restrict your water intake, just know that cases of water intoxication typically involve drinking several gallons of water a day.
Now, let’s go over some of the effects you might experience if you’re overhydrated.
- Higher blood pressure
- Fatigue or extreme tiredness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe confusion
- Headache and dizziness
- Muscle weakness
Yet, it’s not just the side effects that you have to worry about when it comes to overhydration.
You also need to really consider what this condition is doing inside your body’s systems.
Here’s a quick look.
- Too much fluid in the body’s tissues, including the brain, which results in swelling
- Development of hyponatremia, also known as low levels of sodium in the body
- Electrolyte imbalance, impacting the ability of your heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly
Overhydration can prove to be fatal in some people. But, this typically only occurs if you drink gallons of water in a very short period of time.
Water Intake Recommendations
There are no set guidelines for how much water you need to be drinking a day. That’s because your body’s water requirements highly depend on factors like your body weight, activity level, diet, and current health conditions.
According to a Dutch study conducted in 2010, the absolute bare minimum for all people is 500 milliliters of water per day (or about 16 ounces).
That same study concluded that 3,000 milliliters (101 ounces) were optimal for men while 2,200 milliliters (74 ounces) were ideal for women.
Yet, there are also other major organizations that encourage 90+ ounces a day for women and 125+ ounces a day for men.
Obviously, you’ll need to drink a lot more water than these values if you’re consistently exercising, especially if you’re producing a ton of sweat during your workout or game.
The Easiest Ways to Drink More Water
So, now that we’ve thrown you for a complete loop and told you that you actually need more than the typical recommendation, how do you plan on boosting your water intake?
Let’s go over some of the easier ways to get more water into your diet.
1. Drink water with meals.
This is definitely the easiest way to get some extra water on a daily basis. Just pair each meal with a glass or two of water and you might be increasing your water intake by three or more cups a day (or 24 ounces).
2. Replace other beverages with water.
Water is the base ingredient for many coffees, teas, and juices, but you’re not getting as much water as you might think. So, work on slowly replacing other beverages with water. This can really add up if you’re drinking 16 ounces or more of other beverages every day.
3. Set a reminder on your phone.
There are plenty of apps out there that are called “water reminders.” They’ll send you a notification on your phone periodically throughout the day to remind you to drink water, so you can stay consistent with your water drinking during the day.
4. Eat foods with high water content.
Just like humans are mostly water, plenty of foods are as well. So, watermelons, strawberries, and cantaloupes are all unique and tasty ways of supplementing your water intake without feeling like you always have a bottle of water in your hand.
5. Always have access to water.
Now, we aren’t going to recommend you carry around a water jug everywhere you go, but having a bottle of water with you at all times gives you constant access. Rather than drinking just when you’re thirsty, you can get into the habit of drinking when you see your bottle.
Without water, you would die. With too much water, you can also die.
That’s why it’s so important that you find the middle ground and make sure you’re getting just the right amount of water on a daily basis.
Here’s how much water you need to drink per day.
- 74+ ounces for women
- 101+ ounces for men
- Add even more water if you’re active