What to consider when striking a balance in drinking water.
According to the Institute of Medicine, on average, men should consume at least 3.7 liters (15.5 cups) of water daily, whereas women should aim for slightly less at 2.7 liters (just over 11 cups).1 One reason these recommendations are made is there are a number of benefits to staying hydrated. For instance, it improves your ability to digest food and get rid of waste, it can help you lose weight by taming your hunger, and it increases your energy levels so you’re not living in a state of chronic fatigue.2
However, although the institute doesn’t set an upper limit as to maximum water consumed, they do warn in their full report that “acute water toxicity” is a potential concern if you drink more than your kidneys can handle. 3 This causes a number of people to ask, “So, how much water should you drink to ensure that I’m drinking enough but not getting too much?”
Well, not everyone needs the exact same amount, making the answer very person-dependent based on a variety of different factors. And each one deserves special consideration when working to strike a balance in order to get the right amount for you.
Your activity level
If you have a highly physical job (such as construction or a personal trainer) or engage in moderate to high intensity exercise, then your body likely needs more water to help make up for all that you’ve lost via your sweat.
The Mayo Clinic recommends adding a couple extra cups if your activity is fairly moderate and lasts less than an hour, drinking even more per day if it is intense or exceeds 60 minutes of time.4 Make sure you keep drinking after the activity has ceased as well.
On hot days, you’ll want to increase your water intake, drinking more than the suggested amount because you’re likely losing a lot through extra perspiration. Some ways to ensure that you replace enough fluids on scorching days include keeping a water bottle by your side, stopping frequently for drink breaks, and making it a point to drink before you get thirsty.
Your physical health
Certain medical conditions can increase the amount of water your body needs to function optimally. The American Heart Association lists a few of these, which include diabetes, heart disease, and cystic fibrosis.5 Additionally, certain medications have a diuretic effect, making drinking more water critical while taking them to avoid dehydration.
When considering how much water you need for maximum health, many factors, like these three, should be considered. Checking with your doctor for his or her recommendation is another great option to ensure that you get enough without drinking too much.
1 Institute of Medicine. “Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate.” National Academics of Science Engineering and Medicine. http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2004/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-Water-Potassium-Sodium-Chloride-and-Sulfate.aspx. Published February 2004. Accessed July 2015.
2 Zelman K. “6 Reasons to Drink Water.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/diet/6-reasons-to-drink-water?page=1. Published May 2008. Accessed July 2015.
3 National Academics Press. “Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate.” Institute of Medicine of the National Academes. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI/DRI_Water/water_full_report.pdf. Published 2005. Accessed July 2015.
4 Mayo Clinic staff. “Water: How much should you drink every day?” Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256. Published September 2014. Accessed July 2015.
5 American Heart Association. “Staying Hydrated – Staying Healthy.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Staying-Hydrated—Staying-Healthy_UCM_441180_Article.jsp. Published September 2014. Accessed July 2015.