Of all the nutrients in your diet, water is one of the
body’s most essential. However, many people struggle to meet their daily fluid
needs. The old advice is to drink 8 cups of water per day, but the reality is
that everyone is different. So how much water should you drink a day? It really
can vary, even from day to day! Health, activity, gender, exposure to heat, and
even what you eat can all impact how much water someone needs.
Water serves many important roles in our bodies and losing
even a small percentage of body fluid can lead to a drop in energy levels,
weakness, poor mood, and physical performance. Staying well hydrated can help
reduce your risk of kidney stones, urinary tract infections, headaches, and
constipation as well. Drinking an adequate amount of fluids can help us feel
our best and help our bodies to thrive.
To determine how much fluid you should be aiming for each
day, take your body weight and divide it in half. This is the amount of ounces
you should strive for daily. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, your goal
should be around 80 ounces per day (10 cups). How much exercise you do and if
you follow a certain diet plan may change these needs.
If you are an athlete or do strenuous exercise you would
need to increase your fluid intake to account for losses through sweat. If this
describes you, it is recommended to take your body weight and multiply that by
0.66 and that will give you the amount of ounces per day. So, for our 160-pound
person above, they would need 106 ounces of fluid per day (13 ¼ cups).
Twenty percent of our fluid needs come from food sources
such as fruits, vegetables, soups, grains and dairy products, the other 80%
comes from beverages. Our 160-pound person above, needs 64 oz. of fluids (8
cups) from beverages and the rest of their fluid needs would be met with a
healthy diet. Many carbohydrate foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are high
in water content. In fact, making half of your plates fruits and vegetables at
mealtimes can add up to two extra cups of water a day. Eating grains such as
oatmeal or brown rice can also increase your hydration levels because of the
water they soak up during the cooking process.
Conversely, if you are on a low carbohydrate diet, you may
need to increase your fluid intake from beverages because you aren’t consuming
as many foods with a high water content and because this type of diet naturally
results in loss of water weight. Those following a high-fiber diet are also
advised to increase their fluid intake. Fiber absorbs more water in the digestive
tract, so the more fiber in your diet, the more fluid you should drink to help
Two ways to monitor your hydration is through urine color
and sweat loss.
1. Urine Color: The color of your urine
first thing in the morning is a good overall indicator of hydration status.
Lemonade-colored urine is a sign that you are adequately hydrated. Apple-juice
colored urine indicates dehydration. The exception to this would be if you are
taking vitamin supplements in the morning, bright colored urine is produced
after consuming vitamin supplements.
2. Sweat Loss: Change in body weight before and after exercise is used to estimate
sweat loss. It is advised to weigh yourself prior to exercise and then again
when you are finished. If you lose weight during exercise it should be replaced
with 2-3 cups of fluids.
Some simple ways to increase your water intake include
carrying a refillable water bottle, adding slices of fruits or vegetables to
water (such as lemon, lime, or cucumber), drinking a glass of fluid with every
meal, keeping water to drink by your bed at night, and listening to your body
when you are thirsty.