You’ve heard it again and again — drink water instead of juice, soda, or sugary sports drinks, and drink plenty of it. While the typical water-consuming mantra has always been to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (totally 1.9 liters), you’ll actually be needing a bit more than that to stay on top of your hydration needs. The average man should be drinking around 13 cups of water each day and women should aim for 9 cups, according to Mayo Clinic. This amount can even increase depending on your daily activity levels. You should also consider all of the different ways you lose fluids in a day through breathing, perspiring, and going to the bathroom, so replenishing what you lose is incredibly important in maintaining optimal health. While it may seem excessive and chore-like to constantly consider your water intake, having enough fluids in your body is vital for proper organ function, metabolic health, hunger control, and achieving healthy energy levels.
If you find that you’re fatigued halfway through your workout or your workday, you may want to reach for a glass of water over coffee or caffeine-laden sports drinks. Whether you realize it or not, you may be dehydrated, and dehydration can lead to fatigue, says Authority Nutrition. Athletes in particular are prone to becoming more dehydrated than others — it is not uncommon for athletes to lose anywhere from 6 to 10% of their water weight through sweat during their workouts, and performance levels can suffer when athletes lose as little as 2% of their water weight.
Going into a workout without the proper amount of water in your system can lead to changes in the way your body regulates temperature, a lack of motivation to complete all of your reps, and the illusion that your workout is a lot more difficult than it really is in both a physical and mental sense. Because muscle is roughly 80% water, you need to give water back to your muscles when they’re hard at work, as this will keep your reps consistent and your body prepared for workouts that are longer and more difficult.
While water is great for keeping energy levels high during your workout (and outside of the gym as well), staying hydrated is also the key to maintaining that your organs are functioning as well as possible. Men’s Fitness states that water speeds up the metabolism and flushes out toxins from your body, ensuring that your organs can function with efficiency. Even the simple act of keeping your mouth and nose from drying out is from proper water intake, and processes like digesting food, circulating the blood, and lubricating and cushioning joints are supported by staying hydrated.
Drinking water also helps protect the brain, the blood, and the spinal cord while keeping these sensitive areas moist. And don’t forget about the benefits that water has for your memory and productivity — drinking a glass of water while doing office work can give you the extra boost of energy and focus that you may need to complete tedious tasks.
Everyday Health also explains how proper hydration keeps your insides working optimally by assisting in the excretion of waste through urinating, perspiring, and defecating. Your kidneys, your liver, and your intestines utilize water to flush out waste, and staying hydrated can even lead to relieving symptoms of constipation. With that being said, water is also great for digestion in general — when you consume soluble fibers, water can help the fibers dissolve easily, which eases the digestion process. Because your digestive system needs your saliva and water to assist in breaking down foods and dissolving nutrients for your body to absorb and benefit from, it makes sense that drinking water can ease this process and assist your body in the food and particle breakdown.
Water also greatly benefits the skin, your body’s largest organ. Certain toxins can cause inflammation, which can directly affect the clarity of your skin. If you’re looking for a quick way to clear an acne breakout, consider drinking a few more glasses of water a day to reduce the risk of any inflammatory skin disorder. And, because your digestive health and your skin health are linked, you may drink more water to help with your digestion and experience clearer skin as an added bonus.
Though you may be reaching for low-calorie protein shakes and calorie-controlled portions to reach your weight loss goal, Greatist says that water is a key component to staying trim and feeling fuller for longer. Adding a few more glasses of water a day to your daily diet can help keep you satiated and boost your metabolic rate — not only will you be cutting back on calories, but you’ll also give your metabolism the extra boost it might need. According to this this study, drinking a little over two cups of water extra a day can increase your metabolic rate by 30% for up to (or slightly over) an hour. You should also consider what time you’re drinking your water as well — drinking water a half hour before your next meal is appropriate so that you feel satiated before beginning to eat, which will lower your calorie intake overall.
Though the best way to stay hydrated is from drinking water from the glass, you can also eat more foods that naturally contain more water. Health states states that nearly 20% of your daily water intake comes from solid foods anyway, so consider adding more cucumbers (96.7% water), iceberg lettuce (95.6%), radishes (95.3%), tomatoes (94.5%), watermelon (91.5%), and strawberries (91%) into your diet. If you’re finding it difficult to get more of these fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, then consider adding in cucumbers, lemons, or herbs to your drinking water for additional digestive health boosts and anti-inflammatory effects.
Having trouble keeping up with how much water you’re drinking? A general rule of thumb is to drink a full glass of water as you’re eating each meal and between every meal that you have. If you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is light yellow in color, you’re most likely pretty well-hydrated, and though it is possible to experience health complications associated with drinking too much water, most healthy adults who eat an average diet will not need to worry about this ever becoming an issue.