How much water should you be drinking each day to maintain good health? It is a simple question, but often we can get confused on the correct answer. This is because studies have produced various recommendations over the years.
Water is your body’s most abundant chemical component since it makes up about 50-70% of your body weight. Your body depends on having enough water to function and survive. Every organ depends on water to work properly. Water gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements, keeps your temperature within a normal range, lubricates joints, and protects sensitive tissues, amongst many other functions. A lack of water can lead to dehydration, which can drain your energy and lead to many other organ and system issues.
However, individual water needs depend on your health, how active you are, and where you live.
When you are in good health your body needs a steady intake of fluid. However, when you are sick, have a fever, vomiting, or having diarrhea your body needs additional fluid to make up for all that your body is losing. Your doctor may even recommend drinking oral rehydration solutions (ORS). The Mayo Clinic says that an ORS solution contains salt and water in a specific proportion to replenish both fluids and electrolytes. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you will also need about 20-40% more fluid than you would normally need.
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If you do any sort of activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to cover the fluid loss in sweat. It is important to not only drink water during exercise, but to drink water before and after exercise as well.
Where you live
Environment can also play a role in fluid needs. Living in a southern region where it is hot and humid causes your body to release more sweat, whether you realize it or not. Fluid needs are about 20% higher in the summertime in these areas. In addition, dehydration also occurs more frequently at high altitudes. If you are visiting a higher altitude, make sure you drink more water or fluids than you normally would.
The bottom line
Under normal circumstances, fluid needs are:
- Women need about 11.5 cups of fluid each day
- Men need about 15.5 cups of fluid each day
Fluid doesn’t have to mean just water either. What you eat also provides a significant portion of your fluid needs. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are almost 100% water by weight. Drinks such as tea, milk, juice, and herbal teas are composed mostly of water and can add to your fluid intake.
If you feel thirsty, or if your urine is dark in color, you are most likely not drinking enough fluid and should increase your fluid intake. To prevent dehydration, it is a good idea to drink a glass of water with each meal and in between meals, before during and after exercise, and if you ever feel thirsty.