woman wondering how much water should you drink a day

How much water do you actually need each day?

Some of the most simple things in life need a drama-free reassessment. We know we need water, food, exercise, and sleep every single day and yet that’s where a lot of our knowledge ends. How much sleep? How much protein should I eat per day? How much and what kind of sleep is best? We’re dedicated to taking the drama out of all of these, but for now we’ll focus on water. So, how much water should you drink a day?

Like many of life’s questions, this one depends on your body and your lifestyle. Don’t let fitness influencers or “health gurus” give you a one-size-fits-all answer. We’ll break down how to figure out how much water you should drink a day based on you as an individual. It will take slightly more work, but your body will thank you.

So, how much water are you drinking a day now?

You can’t figure out how much water you should drink a day if you don’t have a baseline. There are simple apps for tracking your water intake to save you the math, and even MyFitnessPal has this functionality. Track your water intake for a week, and be sure to include some workout days and some rest days. (Make a mental note of which is which. It’ll be important later.)

Now, how much water should you drink a day?

To figure out how much water you should drink a day, you first have to figure out how happy your body is with the amount you’re typically taking in. Excuse my language, but we’re going to get personal for a minute. What color is your pee? If it’s any darker than a light yellow, you’re not getting enough water. When I was at this point, I upped my water intake by 16 ounces since it was easy to work into my schedule.

The short and sweet way to find out if you’re drinking enough is to knock back water until your pee is in the light yellow range. If the temperature and humidity are up or if you’re working out that day, your intake will need to skew higher than normal. Remember: If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Try to keep a bottle or cup nearby all the time so you can sip continuously.

Some people drink a gallon a day. Should I do that?

There are pros and cons to this. First of all, if you’re currently drinking around 64 ounces of water a day, that 8 glasses recommendation from the FDA, don’t jump up to a gallon automatically. You’ll not only be running to the bathroom constantly but also pounding water at a rate you might not be able to maintain.

mason jar filled with water

Ethan Sykes

That’s a big deal. In order to stay properly hydrated, feel your best, and nail great workouts, you’ll need to consume roughly the same amount of water daily. Your body fights to maintain homeostasis, a fancy way of saying your body doesn’t like change and will work to get things back to normal. So if you take in less water one day, your body will hold onto the water it has to try to stay as close to normal as possible. That means you might end up looking and feeling puffy if you miss a day of hydrating. Knocking back a gallon daily can feel like work. So don’t push your intake that high if you don’t need it and aren’t ready to consistently hit that 128 ounce mark.

Who should drink a gallon or more a day?

Athletes or people training at high intensity will probably push the one-gallon mark, if not exceed it daily. The more you sweat, the more fluids you’re losing that need to be replaced in order to stay hydrated. Even if you’re not an athlete, but you upped the intensity on your workouts, you might push this mark. Staying properly hydrated is a game changer if you’re spending a good amount of time in the gym. Even walking in a touch dehydrated can lead to muscle cramps and an overall drop in strength (although that might just be your mind muscle connection kicking in).

Drinking close to a gallon a day is also helpful if you’re cutting, fitness speak for trying to lose weight and get leaner. Aside from the benefits in the gym, drinking this much water will leave you feeling fuller for longer. That’s an easy way to side-step the biggest dieting hurdle: hunger.

Your 3-step plan for figuring out your water intake

Figure out where you are and whether it’s enough for your body. Remember, if your pee is darker than a light yellow, you need to up your intake. Pick a conservative increase, though, since you’ll need to hit that number consistently to feel your best.

Increase your baseline based on how active you are. Although your body might differ, start with adding in 4 ounces of water for every 15 minutes you’re sweating. You might need a little more or less, depending on your body and how hydrated you are generally.

Fine tune your water intake daily based on a couple variables. Make moderate increases to your water intake for a couple conditions. If it’s hotter and more humid than normal out, drink more water. You’ll be sweating more, so you need to compensate for that. If your upped the intensity on your workout, add to your intake. You probably sweat more than usual, so drink up. If you know you just enjoyed a meal loaded with salt, better to drink up to prevent bloat. You’ll thank yourself tomorrow when you’re not puffy and sluggish.

Brooke Cagle


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