People are much more mindful of their water consumption these days. They’re using apps, planners, and smart bottles to help them remember to drink up. With all these new tools available to us, you’d think the benefits of drinking water would be clear and we wouldn’t have to ask: How much water should you drink a day?

Wrong! Studies show that the average American drinks about 4 cups of water per day. So even though we know hydration is important, we’re not acting on that knowledge.

Let me convince you to drink more water! Read on to find out:

  • How much water should you drink?
  • Why our bodies need so much water.
  • The benefits of drinking water.
  • How to drink more water.
  • Plus, can you drink too much water?

How Much Water Should I Drink Every Day?

The National Academies of Science recommends:

  • Women consume roughly 2.7 liters (about 91 ounces) each day.
  • Men consume about 3.7 liters (about 125 ounces) each day.

That’s a lot more than the widely accepted eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day!

Turns out, to get all the benefits of drinking water, the 8×8 rule is not as accurate as you might think. There is a marked lack of scientific evidence to back it up and it overlooks one crucial point: Chugging water isn’t the only way we hydrate.

How diet affects water consumption

According to a 2004 study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, a healthy adult gets as much as 20 percent of their daily water intake from food. The other 80 percent comes from water and other beverages.

So, depending on what the rest of your diet looks like, 64 ounces of water may be too little or even too much to get the benefits of drinking water.

How activity level affects water consumption

We lose anywhere from 80 to 120 ounces of water per day through regular bodily functions like breathing, sweating, etc. (source)

Different people will need more or less water depending on activity level and other physiologic factors. Pregnant and nursing mamas, for example, need more water than other women.

  • Pregnant women should try to get at least 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily.
  • Nursing mamas may need to drink as much as 104 ounces, or 13 cups, daily!

Why Our Bodies Need So Much Water

  • At birth, babies’ body weight is about 80 percent water.
  • By the time they’re one, this decreases to about 65 percent.
  • By the time we are adults, our bodies are still 60 percent water.

Based on this information alone, it should come as no surprise that there are very real benefits of drinking water—our entire system functions better when we’re adequately hydrated.

Benefits of Drinking Water

There are so many benefits of drinking water—proper hydration can make a huge difference in every single system in your body! Here, some of the most important:

💧Drinking water facilitates digestion

Your large intestine filters water from fecal matter, and if you aren’t adequately hydrated, you can easily become constipated. By maintaining hydration, your digestive system runs more efficiently.

💧Drinking water improved metabolism

Trying to lose weight? Drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of water can temporarily boost your metabolism by 24-30 percent. In study participants, the metabolic rate increase reached its maximum after 30-40 minutes, so if you know you’re going to be eating a large meal, pour a full glass 30 minutes ahead of meal time to maximize the benefits of drinking water. 

💧Drinking water curbs appetite

Drinking water also curbs your appetite. In one study, the control group didn’t drink water before a meal, and the other group did. The group that drank water pre-meal had 13 percent lower calorie intake. Another, 12-week study, followed two groups trying to lose weight. The group that drank 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before their meals lost 44 percent more weight than the other group.

💧Drinking water alleviates muscle pain and cramps

When we exercise, lactic acid builds up in our muscle tissue. This buildup is what causes muscles to cramp up and feel sore after a workout. One of the great benefits of drinking water is that it flushes that lactic acid buildup out of your muscles and helps to relieve pain and soreness associated with exercise and muscle fatigue.

💧Drinking water improves complexion

Studies show that one of the benefits of drinking water is improved skin physiology—getting enough water can delay effects of aging and rid the body of the toxins that cause breakouts.

💧Drinking water benefits the immune system

Studies suggest the skin is your body’s number one barrier against the outside world and plays a major role in maintaining the immune system.

💧Drinking water provides headache relief

In one study, water was an effective remedy for people with headaches due to dehydration. In another study of people with other types of headaches, water consumption did not reduce the frequency of headaches, but did reduce the duration and intensity of headaches. Some people find headache relief just by drinking 16 ounces of water in one sitting.

💧Drinking water increases energy

In one study, fluid loss of just 1.59 percent caused fatigue, increased levels of anxiety, and decreased memory function. It makes sense, since of the signs of early dehydration is fatigue. A few sips might be all you need to power through the rest of your day.

💧Drinking water improves cognitive function

Hydration feeds all of the cells, tissues, and systems in our body—and our brain is not exempt. In studies, mild to moderate levels of dehydration impairs performance on cognitive tests. (source.) In another study, students who sipped on water during exams performed better than those who didn’t.

💧Drinking water lowers risk of chronic disease

There’s even some evidence that adequate water consumption lowers instances of serious illness, like kidney stones and even some types of cancer. In studies, drinking significantly more water reduced the likelihood of kidney stone recurrence.

In another study, men and women who drank more water had decreased risk of colon cancer. Study authors hypothesize that this could be because water helps flush waste and toxins from the body.

How to Drink More Water

Have I convinced you to drink more water yet? The benefits of drinking water are amazing!

Here’s a great trick: Pour yourself a glass of water before sitting down to every meal. If you make it a habit, you’re much more likely to reach for that glass of water.

Some other suggestions:

  • Invest in a reusable water bottle. Fill it up before leaving the house in the morning, take it with you throughout the day, and refill often.
  • Download an app. If you’re someone who always has their phone handy, download an app like Waterlogged or Daily Water Free and enable push notifications.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies. Tired of drinking water all the time? Fruits and vegetables naturally contain water and adding more to your diet will help you meet your daily goals. Did you know grapefruit is 91.6% water!?

Here are some more great choices—the lowest water percentage on the list is oranges at 86.8% water.

  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Honeydew
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Asian and prickly pears
  • Papayas
  • Oranges
  • Plums
  • Pineapple
  • Lemons

Vegetables have even more water in them! These vegetables are all made up of at least 90% water!

  • Chinese cabbage (bok-choy)
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Radishes
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Bell peppers
  • Turnips
  • Cauliflower
  • Bell peppers
  • Portobello mushrooms

With a list that long, you’re sure to find something you’ll like!

Signs You Need to Drink More Water

If you think you’re drinking enough water each day, but aren’t sure, what are the signs that you need to drink more? Simple: Are you thirsty? You might thirst means you’re already dehydrated, but that’s not the case. If water is freely available, humans become thirsty and drink before their body needs more water, according to one study.

Here are some other signs that your body might be thirsty:

  • Dry skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dark-colored urine/not urinating as often

A good rule of thumb: Watch your urine color. You want urine to be light-colored yellow to indicate adequate hydration.

  • If your urine is golden, orange or brown: You are definitely not drinking enough water!
  • If your urine is clear: You are drinking too much water.

Can You Drink Too Much Water?

Whenever the topic of water consumption comes up, someone, somewhere will claim to know someone who got sick or died from drinking too much water. It sounds far-fetched, but it can technically happen. Hyponatremia, or decreased blood sodium levels, can occur after drinking a lot of water very quickly, but it’s very unlikely you will drink enough water to make yourself sick under normal day-to-day circumstances.

Though this condition is most common in athletes who lose sodium in sweat, then drink large amounts of water, further diluting the sodium in their blood, some signs you may be drinking too much water include (source):

  • Your urine is clear
  • You’re urinating through the night (unless you’re pregnant!)
  • You feel nauseous or vomit

Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any of these warning signs, but remember: It’s much more likely that you’re reaping the benefits of drinking water.

How About You?

How much water do you drink every day? What tips do you have for staying adequately hydrated? Share with us in the comments below!