FEATURE — How much water do you drink daily? Often you will hear the “8×8 rule” recited, meaning eight 8-ounce glasses or 64 ounces. Or maybe you’ve heard you need an ounce per pound of body weight, but how much do you really need?

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Well, it depends. Factors such age, sex, medical conditions, activity level and overall health play into how much water you need. On average, women need about 11.5 cups of water per day and men need about 15.5 cups. You typically get about 20% of the water you need from the food you eat. Impressive, huh? Taking that into account, women need about nine cups of water per day and men need about 12.5 cups.

Hydration needs

You shouldn’t abide by these numbers all the time, though. Your physical activity level, current state of mind and normal bodily functions such as urination, bowel movements and sweat all play into your hydration needs.

Did you know that stress or anxiety can cause dehydration? It can! Stress and anxiety can cause your heart rate to increase and your breathing to become heavier. Another thing to note is if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you will need to increase your water intake.

Here at Create Better Health, we always recommend water as the first choice of beverage. Sports drinks are often touted as an effective way to increase hydration and while that may be true for a very active athlete, for the average person, water is the best bet! Try and avoid high-sugar or high-calorie beverages. Drinks containing sugar, alcohol or caffeine can increase your body’s water because they perform like a diuretic which increases urine production and can dehydrate your body.

Listen to your body

Listen to your body. If you feel thirsty, that is a sign you should drink some water. Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN, an eatright.org contributor, suggests some practical ways to monitor hydration:

“Urine color. The color of the first morning’s urine void after awaking is an overall indicator of hydration status. Straw or lemonade-colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration. Dark-colored urine, the color of apple juice, indicates dehydration. Bright urine often is produced soon after consuming vitamin supplements.”

“Sweat loss. Change in body weight before and after exercise is used to estimate sweat loss. Since an athlete’s sweat loss during exercise is an indicator of hydration status, athletes are advised to follow customized fluid replacement plans that consider thirst, urine color, fluid intake, sweat loss and body weight changes that occur during exercise.”

60% of your body is made of water

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Your body is full of water! Water helps your body function properly. Dehydration can cause a variety of concerns and can happen easily. Anytime you physically exert, your body you will lose some water. You don’t even have to sweat or be in a hot or humid climate to become dehydrated.

Since we are in Utah, take skiing as an example. It can be really cold! You may not have any visible sweat when you’re all bundled up in those snow clothes, but that doesn’t mean you won’t become dehydrated.

Dehydration also increases your risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections, not to mention constipation, none of which sound very fun.

Signs of dehydration

If you’re worried about dehydration or don’t know what to look for, here are some warning signs:

Flushed skin.
Increased body temperature.
Fast breathing.
Increased pulse rate.
Decreased exercise capacity.
Labored breathing.

Staying hydrated

If you struggle to stay hydrated or don’t currently drink enough water, try these tips:

Make water your beverage of choice.
Drink water throughout the day and with meals.
Carry a water bottle with you.
Add a flavor enhancer such as lemon or lime if water hasn’t always been your first choice.

Happy hydrating!

This article originally appeared on Jan. 11, 2023, on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.

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