How many ounces of water you need per day is based on factors like your weight, activity level, and health conditions.
You should drink enough water according to your individual needs, not the “rule” about 8 glasses of water a day.
It is possible to drink too much water — overhydration is a rare but serious medical concern.
You’ve likely heard that it’s important to drink water, and that it’s crucial to the survival of living beings. But do you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day as popularly recommended? And what are the actual benefits of water?
We’ll separate fact from fiction when it comes to how much water you need and cover how to tell if you’re getting enough water.
What are the benefits of drinking water?
The human body contains around 60% water. Your body depends on it to function properly. this essential nutrient. In fact, you could not live for more than a few days without water. Below are a few of water’s many benefits. Water helps:
Regulate your temperature.
Keep your mouth clean
Lubricate your joints and protect sensitive tissues
Remove harmful wastes through urine, sweat, and poop
Transport nutrients to organs via your blood
Do you really need to drink 2 liters of water a day?
No, there is no evidence to support that you should drink 8 glasses — or 2 liters — of water a day. Research has found that most people get enough water from the foods and beverages they consume daily.
All drinks — including tea, coffee, juice, and soda — contain water. For most people, drinking these beverages along with plain water makes up 70% to 80% of their total fluid intake. The other 20% to 30% of most people’s total fluid intake comes from food.
How much water should you be drinking daily?
There isn’t a concrete answer to how much water you should be drinking. It will vary for everyone. However, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies determined:
Adequately hydrated males drink about 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of water daily.
Adequately hydrated females drink about 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of water daily.
However, some people may need to drink more water than others. This depends on several factors:
Weight: Individuals in larger bodies may require more fluid, since over two-thirds of the adult body holds water. If you are looking for a rough calculation, take your weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That is about how many ounces of water you should drink each day. So a person who weighs 200 lbs should drink about 100 ounces — or 3 liters — of water per day.
Location: If you live in a tropical or dry area, you might need to drink more water to replace fluids lost through sweat. You may also need to drink more water during hotter months of the year.
Activity level: If you are physically active, increase your fluid intake to stay hydrated. This is especially true if you’re working out in hot weather or high altitudes. But your body will still lose water with any exercise, even if you don’t feel like you are profusely sweating.
Health: Some health conditions can increase your fluid loss. Common examples include high blood sugar, fever, urinary tract infections, and intestinal conditions that cause vomiting or diarrhea.
For most people, their normal drinking and eating patterns help them meet their body’s water needs. This means if you drink fluids when you get thirsty, you’re probably getting enough water. Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise, you most likely don’t need to worry about your water intake.
How to tell if your body is getting enough water
A straightforward way to figure out if you’re getting enough water is to look at the color of your urine. Typically, urine should be a clear or pale-yellow color. If your urine appears dark yellow, brown, or amber, it may be a sign you need to drink more water.
Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, a state in which the body does not have enough water to carry out its normal functions. Usually, you can manage mild-to-moderate dehydration by just drinking more water.
Signs of mild-to-moderate dehydration are your body’s way of telling you that you need to drink more water. These signs include:
Dark or strong-smelling urine
Less frequent urination
Occasionally, you may be in a situation where you aren’t able to retain enough water to rehydrate yourself adequately. Usually, this is because you can’t drink or eat enough to meet your body’s needs.
For example, you may have an underlying medical condition that makes it difficult to get enough water. These are typically conditions that affect your:
Brain (like dementia)
Mouth (like mouth inflammation or cancer)
Swallowing (like a stroke)
It’s also possible to lose more water than you can replace through drinking. This can happen if you have a serious infection with a high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea that won’t stop. It can also happen if you have a medical condition or take a medication that makes you urinate a lot.
Depending on the situation, your healthcare provider may order oral replacement solutions, or you may need to have fluids replaced through an infusion into your vein. Rehydration solutions replace not only water but also essential electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.
Is it possible to drink too much water?
Although rare, it is possible to drink too much water. Overhydration can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. This is when the body does not have enough sodium — an important electrolyte for fluid regulation. As a result, fluid causes the cells in the body to swell, including cells in the brain. This condition can lead to dangerous symptoms, including:
Changes to your mental state, like confusion or irritability
Nausea and vomiting
Muscle cramps or weakness
Typically, overhydration occurs with:
Athletes who attempt to prevent dehydration by drinking too much during strenuous activity
People who have conditions, such as heart failure and kidney disease, that cause their body to hold onto water
People with underlying medical conditions that cause excessive thirst that leads them to consume unusually large amounts of water
But even in the absence of these conditions, a healthy individual who drinks too much water in a short period of time can develop hyponatremia.
So how much water is too much? There is no specific amount of water that is too much. But if you find yourself drinking a gallon of water or more a day, it’s a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider. You can work together to figure out the right amount of fluid you should drink a day to stay hydrated.
The bottom line
Most people are adequately hydrated as long as they consume water as their thirst guides them. This is why it’s best to listen to your body — you don’t need to count how many glasses of water you’re drinking. If you have an underlying medical condition or you’re worried you may not be getting enough water, then ask your healthcare provider for guidance.
Although you can get water from different beverages as well as food, plain water is the healthiest form of water intake. And remember that water benefits every part of the body, and it’s rare to drink too much of it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Water and healthier drinks.
Jéquier, E. (2009). Water as an essential nutrient: The physiological basis of hydration. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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