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How Much Water Should You Drink a Day

A young woman drinking mineral water in her kitchen

We all know staying hydrated is important. But how much water should you really be drinking each day?

You’ve likely heard sources claiming the “right” amount to be anything from four to 12 cups per day. However, the daily amount of water a person needs can be significantly individualized. For example, while four to six cups of water per day may be sufficient for the average healthy person when they are doing minimal physical activity, that number increases for people who exercise frequently.

Furthermore, certain health conditions may require reduced water consumption, while other conditions may necessitate increased water intake. Also, if you have a fever or an infection, or if you are losing fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, you may need to drink more water than usual to keep up or replace fluid losses. In addition, certain types of medications require that people decrease or increase their water intake. In all of these situations, it is best to follow a doctor’s guidance about the specific amount of water your body needs.

Other factors that affect how much water you need include:

  • Where you live: People who live in hot, humid or dry areas need more water. In addition, you may need more water if you live at higher altitudes.
  • Diet: People who drink a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages might lose more water through extra urination. They should consider drinking less caffeinated drinks and replacing them with water. Also, people who don’t eat many foods that are high in water (such as fresh or cooked fruits and vegetables) may need to drink more water.
  • Environment and time of year: If you spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun, in hot temperatures or even in overly heated indoor areas, you may need more water due to increased perspiration. Similarly, people often need to drink more water during warmer months than cooler ones.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding: When you’re pregnant or nursing a baby, you need to drink extra water to stay hydrated, since your body is doing the work for two (or more).

Ways to Maintain Good Hydration

How do you know how much water your individual body needs? Rather than focusing on a specific daily amount, some experts recommend drinking water at a slow rate throughout the day. Hydration is easiest to achieve if constantly managed, so continually drinking water keeps your body in a consistent state of hydration.

“If your goal is to drink 64 ounces (8 cups) of water per day,” says UH registered dietitian Jennifer Kerner, RD, LD, “consider dividing the goal between three periods of the day, which would amount to about 2 to 3 cups in the morning, 2 to 3 cups during the afternoon, and 2 to 3 cups in the evening.”

You should also be aware of signs of dehydration, which include feeling weak, confused and dizzy; experiencing frequent headaches; and making urine that is dark in color.

Benefits of Drinking Water

In case you need further motivation to stay hydrated, here are just a few of the ways water can help your body function at a high level:

  • Promotes less dry skin
  • May help with weight maintenance and even weight loss when people replace drinking high-sugar drinks with drinking water
  • Promotes healthy bladder and kidney function
  • Improves digestion
  • Promotes healthy joints

Lastly, here are some tips for staying hydrated:

  • Carry a refillable water bottle with you wherever you go.
  • Drink at least a cup or two of water with every meal.
  • Drink a glass of water first thing when you wake up in the morning.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with high water content.
  • Track your water with an app or in your day planner to make sure you’re getting enough.
  • Try flavoring your water with lemon, lime or cucumber slices.

Related Links

University Hospitals Digestive Health Institute specializes in providing high quality care for patients with digestive and liver disorders and diseases.