National Water Day

We all know we need to drink water to survive, but how much water do we actually need?  It’s the age old question that people have answered in a variety of ways. From 8 cups, to half your body weight in ounces, we’re going to dive in to what it takes to stay hydrated.

How much water you need to drink depends on a variety of factors:

  • Age: kids are more susceptible to dehydration than adults.
  • Sex: men generally need more water than women.
  • Activity level: people who are more active need more water than those who are more sedentary.
  • Environment: those at higher altitudes and those in warmer climates may need more water to stay hydrated.
  • Health status: in general, if you’re sick you need more water than when you’re healthy.

Why is drinking enough water important?  Water is necessary for almost all body functions and makes up 60% of body weight.  It’s important for maintaining normal body temperature, lubricating joints, and getting rid of waste products.  In short, water is important because your body needs it to survive.

Water needs vary person-to-person and, contrary to popular belief, there isn’t really a set rule for how much water you should drink each day.  So, how do you know when you’re properly hydrated?

Signs of adequate hydration:

  • Urine color is light yellow/almost clear.    

That’s right folks, a really good way to make sure you’re hydrated is by checking the color of your urine.  Darker colored urine is a sign you may be dehydrated while lighter colored urine is a sign that you’re properly hydrated.  If you feel thirsty, that’s a good sign that you need to drink more water. Not feeling thirsty doesn’t necessarily mean you’re properly hydrated, however, particularly in older adults.  As we age, our natural thirst for water diminishes. Drinking water throughout the day is a great way to make sure you’re hydrated even if you don’t feel thirsty.

But what if you don’t like water, how are you supposed to stay hydrated then?  

Here’s a few tips to make water taste better:

  • Try a sugar-free flavor powder or liquid.  
  • Add fruit, fresh herbs, or vegetables.  Cucumbers, berries, lemon or lime, and mint are all great options.
  • If you like tea, drinking herbal tea can be a great way to stay hydrated.
  • Make it bubbly!  Try sparkling or carbonated water.
  • Change the temperature some people find that ice water tastes better than water at room temperature.  Others like hot water.
  • Keep in mind: soda, coffee, and other flavored juice drinks are not appropriate substitutes for water.  Caffeinated and sugary drinks can actually be dehydrating because they stimulate excess urine production.

What about sports drinks?

  • Unless you’re a competitive athlete, you probably don’t need a sports drink to stay hydrated.  While they do provide electrolytes to replenish what’s lost in sweat, they also provide a lot of extra sugar that you don’t need.  A good rule of thumb to follow is intensity and duration of exercise: if you’ve been exercising vigorously for over an hour a sports drink might be appropriate.  When in doubt, stick to regular water.

Can you drink too much water?

  • While very unlikely for the average person, it is possible to drink too much water.  In general though, the average person drinks too little water rather than too much. Checking your urine color can be a good way to ensure you’re not overhydrated, if it’s completely clear you might be drinking too much water.

This National Water Day, take care of your body by drinking some more water!

Meet the Author

Amanda Hookom

Amanda Hookom

Amanda Hookom is a dietetic intern at Loyola University-Chicago, studying to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and minors in Public Health and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. In 2015, she obtained her Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) credentials from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Amanda contributes her experience as a dietetic intern on her website ( to help current nutrition students get an idea of what it's like to be a DI. Her other interests include cooking, fitness, skijoring (cross-country skiing with a dog), and travelling.
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