How much water do you actually need to drink? Recommendations vary widely. I’m sure you’ve heard 8 glasses of water per day. I’m sure you’ve also heard 1 gallon of water per day, although I feel like that is more promoted by influencers selling giant water bottles.
The reality is – the amount of water you need to drink varies.
The amount of water you will need to drink is different than someone else and will also probably change day to day
The amount of water you need to drink can depend on:
- how old you are
- what size you are
- what your body composition is
- how hot it is
- how much salt you eat
- how much water you are losing based on your activity level
- how much you sweat
- how much water you lose through the air, which depends on your climate (both geographically and based on climate control like A/C or heating)
- how much water you get from other drinks or food
- if you are breastfeeding or pregnant
- if you have certain medical conditions
So, how do you tell if you are drinking enough??
The best way to tell if you are hydrated is that your urine is light-colored. If it’s dark, or even very yellow, drink more. This gauge is helpful because it will automatically adjust depending on the above factors.
It’s also important to hydrate consistently throughout the day because we can’t store water. We are not camels. If you drink your whole “recommended amount” of water at the beginning of the day and then nothing during the rest of the day, you will not be well hydrated. (And the color of your urine will reflect this)
Can you drink too much water? Yes, but it is difficult. Our bodies are pretty good about keeping fluid balance correct by getting rid of extra water.
Drinking too much water can be dangerous, but in healthy people without kidney problems this is rare and usually only will happen if you drink extremely large amounts of water in a very short amount of time or if you have lost a LOT of fluid and electrolytes recently – like during a marathon or if someone is rehydrating after severe dehydration.
Most of the time, erring on the side of more water (unless you have a fluid restriction from your doctor) is the way to go. Especially if you are drinking gradually as you go through the day.
The bottom line: drink enough water and other fluids throughout the day so that your urine is light colored, most of the time
Obviously, if you have more specific instructions from your doctor, dietitian, or other health professional, follow those, but if you are just looking for general guidance, that’s the way to go!
This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.