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Do You Really Need to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day?
by Becky Duffett
How Much Water Do You Really Need?

Did you drink enough water today? Did you even notice? If you have a cup of coffee in the morning, half a bottle with your workout, and a few sips with meals, you’re probably running on empty. Now that you stop to check in with your body, you might even feel thirsty, Take a moment to go get a big, cool drink. And while you pour, think about it. What is your water goal, anyway?

Do You Need 8 Glasses of Water a Day?

8 glasses of 8 fluid ounces of water per day is the classic recommendation, and a great goal to set initially, but it’s definitely oversimplified. “Unfortunately, there has never been a landmark study on exactly how much water you should drink every day!” says Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “So even if it’s bunk, you have to start somewhere. Think of 8 glasses a day as the bare minimum, and then keep sipping.”  

In fact, the current recommendation from the Institute of Medicine is significantly higher, at least 2.7 liters of water per day for women, 3.7 liters for men, which translates to 11 to 15 cups of water per day. Some of that can come from hydrating foods and other beverages, such as watermelon and lettuce, or coffee and tea. But you still need a lot of water—and that’s just for “adequate” intake! So you might have to push those numbers higher, especially if you’re sweating hard during summer workouts.

“But it doesn’t really matter which calculation you use,” Foroutan confides. “They all boil down to that 8 to 12 glasses range.” What’s more important is how you feel. So track your intake for a few days. See how many glasses you’re getting. And in addition to the numbers, pay attention to your thirst and pee—if it’s darker than lemonade that’s a sign of dehydration.

Why Do You Need to Drink So Much Water?

Whatever your other health and fitness goals, drinking enough water can help you get there. Water is essential for your health and wellbeing, affecting every system in your body. It’s a natural detox, supporting your liver, kidneys, and bowel function. It powers athletic performance, clearing out lactic acid, so your muscles can do more. It helps you to focus and boosts your mood.

“If that doesn’t make you hit the bottle, maybe the promise of weight loss will?” says Foroutan. Water could also be the key to achieving your weight loss goals. Research shows those who bump up their H20 consumption by one to three glasses per day eat fewer total calories, as well as less saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. So the next time you feel hungry, start with a big glass of water, and see if you’re confusing your thirst and hunger cues.

How to Make Hydration Happen

Before you freak out about drinking upwards of a dozen glasses of water every day, size it up! When’s the last time you poured exactly 8 fluid ounces into a glass? That’s a pretty small tumbler. These days, a small to-go cup is 12 fluid ounces, a mason jar is 16 fluid ounces, a fancy water bottle is 17 fluid ounces, and an outdoorsy water bottle is 32 fluid ounces. So while your water goal might be higher than you realize, you can also fill up for success.

Check out the water logging feature in the Fitbit app, where you can edit your goal and log your water intake. It makes it easy, by giving you options to quickly add a glass or bottle of water. Then keep sipping! Whether that means carrying a pretty bottle all the time, letting a big pitcher chill in the fridge, or taking stretch breaks to swing by the office cooler. If you need a fresh twist, try different flavors of sparkling water or infusing what comes from the tap with lemon, cucumber, mint, strawberries, and more. There are so many ways to keep your cells happy and hydrated.

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.