How much water should you really drink every day?

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer

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Water is your body's principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work properly.

For example, water gets rid of waste, keeps your temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, protects sensitive tissues and much more.

According to Katy Anthony, a physician's assistant in the Mayo Clinic Health System, our individual water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live. No single formula fits everyone, but knowing more about your body's need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.

"Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don't have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired," Anthony said.

Per the Center For Disease Control recommendations, the average adult should take in a total of 3 to 4 liters of water daily through both drinking of fluids and food. Roughly 80 percent of this is via drinking of various fluids. When thinking about 3 to 4 liters of water, this equates to roughly 120 ounces of fluids, or six 20 ounce water bottles.

"These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks," Anthony said.

Experts recommend drinking pure water to achieve these intake goals because other drinks have sugar, caffeine and other additives.

"Substituting water for sugary drinks is an excellent way to limit the 'empty calories' that many people talk about when dieting and trying to manage their weight," Family Medicine Doctor in the Mayo Clinic Health System Michael Lindeke said.

Many other factors should be taken into account when deciding how much water you should consume daily.

Factors that influence how much water to drink - infographic


"When you exercise in the heat, your losses exponentially increase due to the heat and your bodies increased fluid losses with exercise. It’s generally recommended that someone take in 8 to 12 ounces of fluids roughly every 15 to 30 minutes during exercise, especially in the heat," Lindeke said.

Always carry water with you while you're outside in the heat. It is important to keep in mind that much of your water loss during this time is sweat, which also consists of salt.

"Although generally we recommend water, it is also a good idea to mix in some electrolyte formulas such as Gatorade and Powerade to replace the salts lost in sweat. Try to avoid the very high calorie, sugary formulas though," Lindeke said.

Gatorade and other sports drinks can be used to hydrate, especially during strenuous activity as athletes not only lose water but also salts and electrolytes in sweat.

"Sports drinks should be used only when you're exercising intensely for more than an hour. These drinks help replace electrolytes lost through perspiration and sugar needed for energy during longer bouts of exercise. It does not replace water," Anthony said.

"Generally, however, in the case where someone is just trying to maintain adequate hydration outside of exercise, we recommend drinking water as these sports drinks have a lot of empty calories from the sugar in them," Lindeke said.

For those exercising in the heat, it's important to make sure you’re adequately hydrated prior to working out.

Water is all I need after a run

Young woman taking a break from her morning run to drink water. (Getty Images/gradyreese)


For the average person, it can be tough to figure out proper hydration, as most people think if they’re not thirsty they should be good.

"We always recommend people to be drinking even when not thirsty, especially during exercise and in the heat. Good indicators of adequate hydration include clear or light yellow urine and good skin," Lindeke said.

Your fluid intake is probably adequate if you rarely feel thirsty, your urine is colorless or light yellow.

A medical provider or registered dietitian can help you determine the amount of water that's right for you every day. To prevent dehydration and make sure your body has the fluids it needs, make water your beverage of choice.

It's also a good idea to drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal, as well as drinking water before, during and after exercise.

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Anthony recommended drinking water if you're feeling hungry, as oftentimes thirst is confused with hunger.

The above recommendations are made generically for the average person. People who have chronic conditions such as heart failure, kidney disease or other conditions should talk with their doctor about what he/she recommends for fluid maintenance.

"Often times patients who have some of the above conditions are on special diets which include fluid restriction, salt restriction, etc. These patients are at high risk for dehydration and heat stroke in the heat, so they should pay close attention for any symptoms and also speak with their doctor about special situations like these (high temperatures) before they run into trouble," Lindeke said.


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