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Water Intake Guide: How Much Water Should I Drink a Day?

Getting enough water every day is vital to your health. However, most health guides that recommend staying hydrated don't go into the details of how much water you actually need every day.

If you'd like to have a specific goal in mind, we've got the answer to this nagging question: how much water should you really be drinking each day? In addition, this guide covers why water is so important and the benefits of staying hydrated all day, every day.

Daily Water Intake Guidelines

The following water intake guidelines apply to most healthy adults:

  • About 15.5 cups per day for men (3.7 liters)
  • About 11.5 cups per day for women (2.7 liters)

If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that this recommendation includes water included in other beverages you drink as well as the foods you eat. On average, about 20 percent of your daily fluid intake will come from foods, and the rest will come from drinks (other beverages like herbal tea, juice and milk are composed mostly of water).

Generally, the advice to drink eight glasses of water each day (with each glass containing 8 ounces) isn't too far off since you'll also be getting extra water from foods and other drinks.

Keep in mind, however, that certain health concerns, activities or environmental circumstances may cause you to require more water each day, including:

  • Climate: If you live in a particularly hot or humid climate, you may need more water to make up for the water lost through perspiration. Dehydration is also a risk at higher altitudes, so drink more water if you live far above sea level.
  • Exercise: Sweating due to exercise or other strenuous activities will cause you to lose water, so drink more to make up for it. When working out, make sure to drink water before, during and after. You can also use sports drinks to help replace some of the electrolytes in your blood that are also lost through sweat.
  • Medical conditions: A doctor may recommend that you drink more water when suffering from a specific illness or health condition. For example, people who have a fever or are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea lose more water, so they need increased fluid intake to make up for it.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Pregnant women should drink about 10 glasses of water each day. Breastfeeding women need even more at about 13 glasses per day.

If you're not sure whether you're hydrated enough, check the color of your urine after going to the bathroom. If it appears clear or very pale yellow and has little odor, it's a sign that you're well-hydrated. If it is darker in color and has a stronger odor, you are likely dehydrated and need to drink more water.

How Much Water is Too Much?

There is such a thing as drinking too much water, but most people never come close to actually reaching that point. Water intoxication (also known as water poisoning) occurs when brain function is disrupted due to consuming an excessive amount of water.

When you drink too much water, it increases the amount of water in your blood. Unfortunately, too much water in the bloodstream dilutes the electrolytes, causing the sodium levels to drop. As a result, fluids normally kept out of your cells is able to get in, causing the cells to swell. This includes cells in the brain, which is why drinking too much water can be potentially life-threatening.

The initial symptoms for water intoxication include headaches, nausea and vomiting. If it's a severe case, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Double vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Inability to identify sensory information

You can consume a lot of water each day, even going above the recommended limits. However, it's important to avoid drinking water too quickly. Water intoxication symptoms are often associated with drinking more than 27-33 ounces of water per hour.

Benefits of Drinking Water

Drinking enough water to stay hydrated throughout the day is great for your health. In fact, it's associated with the following benefits:

  • Helping to eliminate waste through urination, bowel movements and perspiration
  • Regulating your body temperature
  • Improving mood and brain function
  • Boosting metabolism and energy
  • Lubricating and cushioning your joints
  • Protecting sensitive tissues
  • Reducing appetite
  • Reducing the risk of kidney stones
  • Relieving constipation
  • Improved performance for physical activities

Tips for Drinking More Water

Do you need to drink more water to stay properly hydrated? Here are a few healthy habits that can make it easier to remember to drink more water during your daily routine:

  • Drink a glass of water when you wake up in the morning.
  • Have a glass of water before or during each meal.
  • Drink water before, during and after exercising.
  • If you feel hungry, have a glass of water before eating.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you and sip water throughout the day.
  • Switch one glass of soda or coffee for a glass of water.

Use these tips to stay hydrated, protect your health and feel better each day.

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