How Much Water Should You Drink?

Holly VanHeel, MHA, RD

How Much Water Should you Drink?

You have heard that one should drink at least eight glasses of water per day.  According to the USDA’s  "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," "purposeful drinking" is only necessary for people "who are exposed to heat stress or who perform sustained vigorous activity."  The recommended amount from the Institute of Medicine lists about 125 ounces of water daily for men and that women consume about 91 ounces -- but that includes water intake from all foods and beverages.

Moisture in food accounts for about 20% of the average person's total daily water intake. For example, an apple is 84% water, bananas are 74%, broccoli is 91%. Even foods that you might not think of as particularly moist -- a plain bagel (33% water), ground beef (56%), American cheese (39%) -- help your body meet its hydration needs.

You lose about 10 or more cups of water every day just living -- breathing, sweating, urinating, etc. That amount of water loss is usually replaced by normal levels of daily eating and drinking.  For the athletes, it is important to stay hydrated before, during and after your workouts.  It’s hard to believe, but before about 1969, athletes were advised to avoid drinking fluids during exercise for fear of gastrointestinal problems or impaired performance.  Now, we are very concerned with hydration.  During exercise, one should take a rehydration break about every 20 minutes and drinking about 5 – 10 ounces of fluid.

Dealing with dehydration is not a fun experience.  Our bodies need fluid.  There is water in every cell, tissue, and organ in your body. It helps transport nutrients, get rid of waste, keep your temperature at the right level, lubricate and cushion joints, keep your skin moisturized, and help with lots of other essential functions.  It doesn’t take long to get dehydrated, especially in hot, humid weather.  The National Athletic Trainers’ Association advises delaying or rescheduling vigorous outdoor exercise when it’s too hot and humid.  You should take longer breaks, reduce the duration and/or intensity level, and make sure you’re wearing minimal clothing or exercise gear.  What we drink can have a dehydrating effect on us too.  Most beverages contribute to your overall hydration.  However, alcoholic beverages have the most dehydrating effect.  Coffee and other caffeinated beverages have some diuretic effect, causing your kidneys to form urine.  But they typically are hydrating because of their water content.

An easy way to monitor your hydration status is to check the color of your urine.  The darker your urine, the less hydrated you are.  Drink enough fluids to keep your urine a lighter color.  If it is clear or pale, chances are you are well hydrated.  Other practical ways to monitor your hydration status include keeping an eye on your body weight and perspiration.  Remember, you lose weight as you lose water and the more you perspire, the more water you’re losing.


Call me at the Webster County Extension Office, 515-576-2119 with your nutrition and health questions.  You may also visit the Webster County Extension website

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