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How Much Water Should I Drink?

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

boy drinking a glass of water

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  • There is no exact recommended amount of water to drink per day, as this may depend on factors such as age, body mass, pregnancy, breastfeeding status, daily activities, diet, electrolyte intake and climate
  • In addition to water, you may increase your fluid intake by consuming apples, apricots, bananas, broccoli, cantaloupe, iceberg lettuce and peaches
  • Drinking lots of water is beneficial to your health, but remember to determine how much water you need by listening to your body to avoid overhydration

As an essential fluid in the body, water is vital for certain bodily functions, including homeostasis1 or the maintenance of the balance of cells.2 Although it is common knowledge that you should keep yourself hydrated, how much water should you really drink in a day?

According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a sedentary adult should have an average intake of  1.5 liters of water per day.3 However, according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the recommended total intake of fluids (water and beverages) for men is 3 liters, while 2.2 liters are advised for women aged 19 to 30.4

In essence, the amount of water you need to drink in a day depends on your body’s functions and mechanisms.5 Individual water requirements may vary from one person to another, and may be affected by different factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Body mass
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding status
  • Diet
  • Climate
  • Daily activities
  • Electrolyte intake

The common advice that people should drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water per day was essentially set to help alleviate metabolic and functional abnormalities caused by dehydration,6 and no scientific proof was found to support this.7

Benefits of Drinking Water: Why It’s Crucial for Better Overall Health

Drinking water, along with consuming foods with high water content, may help get rid of toxic waste in the body.8 There are also numerous other factors associated with the benefits of drinking water, including:

Physical performance — Hydration is associated with physical function because being well-hydrated may result in better overall performance, compared to when you’re dehydrated. When physical activity is performed with heat exposure, a gradual decrease in performance may be observed due to cardiovascular and body temperature strain.9

Cognitive performance — A 2012 study found that dehydration may cause poor concentration, headaches, increased perception of task difficulty and degraded mood in women,10 while increased tension, anxiety and fatigue were observed in men.11

Heart function — A 2007 study found that sufficient water intake may help reduce heart rate and increase blood pressure in both normotensive (people with normal blood pressure) and hypertensive individuals (people with high blood pressure).12

One of the most important benefits of water is kidney protection. If you’re following a diet that has excessive amounts of salt or toxic substances, it may cause your kidney tissues to deteriorate,13 which could be flushed out by drinking enough water. Kidney stones are also less likely to form and urinary tract infection (UTI) antibiotics may be dissolved easily with good hydration.14

A 2005 study highlighted the other benefits of sufficient water intake by noting that mild dehydration is linked to different health conditions, such as:15

  • Urolithiasis (formation of stones in the urinary tract)
  • Venous thromboembolism (blood clot in deep veins)
  • Cerebral infarct (stroke) and bronchopulmonary disorders

What Are the Benefits of Drinking Warm and Hot Water?

While drinking water provides various general health benefits, a number of studies also acknowledge that drinking warm water in particular may have additional beneficial effects. According to a 2009 study, drinking warm water before undergoing an unsedated colonoscopy (the primary examination of the large intestine for colorectal cancer without analgesics or sedatives16) may help minimize procedure-related pain in young people or those who have irritable bowel syndrome.17

Additionally, drinking hot water may help regulate fluids in upper respiratory tract infections,18 and minimize symptoms of the common cold and flu such as a runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat and fatigue.19

Benefits of Drinking Cold Water During Exercise

Drinking water may help improve your physical performance, but the temperature of the water may also affect it. In fact, a 2012 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition study found that cold water may be particularly beneficial.

After completing an exercise session, a smaller rise in core temperature was observed in participants who drank cold water, compared to those who drank room temperature water. The researchers were able to conclude that drinking cold water may help improve performance during exercise as it helps maintain core temperature.20

Why Is Drinking Water Important?

Generally, drinking water is important because it helps balance fluid levels in the body, which are responsible for different functions such as digestion, nutrient absorption and transportation, blood circulation, saliva production and body temperature maintenance.21

Drinking enough water also helps reduce the risk of dehydration, which may cause speech incoherence, weakness, hypotonia of ocular globes (reduced resistance of muscles to passive movement), orthostatic hypotension (rapid decline of blood pressure upon standing up) and tachycardia (faster than normal heartbeat while at rest).22

Anyone may experience dehydration, but babies who have a low body weight and older individuals who may not be fully aware of their need to drink more water have a higher risk. Additionally, alcoholics, athletes who lose a large amount of body fluid and people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes are at high risk, too.23

Get Hydrated: 5 Tips for Drinking More Water

Because you lose water every day, it must be replenished to maintain optimal levels. This may let you achieve homeostasis when faced with disruptive factors such as sickness, exercise and heat exposure.24 As an essential aspect of health, safe and sanitary drinking water must be consumed to achieve the benefits mentioned above. Here are best practices and tips for drinking more water:

Always bring a water bottle to keep you hydrated anywhere you may go.25

Use a water filtration system to ensure that there will be no contaminants in your drinking water. Read the article “Properly Filter Your Water” to learn more about water filtration.

Avoid drinking fluoridated tap water to reduce your risk of a lower IQ and altered childhood brain development26 and thyroid function,27 which are all linked to fluoride.

For optimal health, drink living or structured water, which may help recharge your mitochondria. You may collect structured water from natural deep springs, or you can structure regular water by either cooling it to 39 degrees or by stirring it with a spoon.

Drink water in between and after consuming alcoholic drinks to minimize hangover caused by dehydration.28

Aside from water, other sources of fluid that you may consume are apples,29 apricots,30 bananas,31 broccoli,32 cantaloupe,33 iceberg lettuce34 and peaches.35 If you are dealing with insulin resistance, I suggest moderating your consumption of the fruits mentioned above, as they contain fructose, which can be harmful to your health in high amounts.

How Much Water Is Too Much?

Although being sufficiently hydrated can deliver numerous health benefits, remember that moderation is still crucial, as excessive water intake may lead to hyponatremia. This condition is characterized by a low sodium level in the blood, which is usually experienced by endurance athletes who tend to drink excessive amounts of water. It is a life-threatening condition that makes the cells swell due to excess water, endangering the brain because it has no capacity to expand.36

According to a British Journal of General Practice study, the recommended hourly volume intake of water is between 400 and 800 milliliters. Faster and larger endurance athletes performing physical activities under the heat of the sun may have higher requirements.37 Data on the specific amount of excessive water intake is insufficient, but you may recognize hyponatremia through these symptoms:38

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea

You must remember that drinking too much water, especially during training or performance, may be detrimental to your health. It’s best to seek a health care professional’s advice to know the ideal amount for you. One way to know if you’re drinking just the right amount of water is if your urine’s color is light yellow or if it’s colorless.39 Listen to your body to determine if you need to drink a few more liters for the day so you will not end up being overhydrated.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Drinking Water

Q: Is tap water safe to drink?

A: Although it may taste normal and it may look clean, tap water contains more than 250 industrial and agricultural contaminants that may cause health issues such as brain and nervous system damages, and problems in development, fertility and hormones.40 Even water treatment facilities use chlorine or chloramines to purify water, which produces toxic byproducts that are detrimental not only for drinking but also for external use.

To ensure your safety, I recommend installing a whole house water filtration system that will filter your water from its entry point down to your kitchen faucets and shower heads. Common options of water filtration systems are reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and granular carbon and carbon block filters.

Q: Is it ok to drink distilled water?

A: Due to distilled water’s acidic pH, and lack of mineral and electrolytes, drinking it without following the right kind of diet may lead to acidosis (the change in the blood’s pH balance). Acidosis may cause fluid retention, fatigue, muscle cramps, headache and even heart failure.41

Q: What is the best water to drink?

A: I highly recommend drinking pure water that has undergone treatment in a high-quality filtration system. It is ideal to properly filter your water to be able to remove the contaminants that may potentially harm you. Structured water from natural deep springs is also a healthy option.

Q: Is drinking too much water bad for you?

A: In some cases, drinking too much water may cause hyponatremia, a condition in which the blood’s sodium level declines below normal. It may cause your cells to swell due to excess water and may impair your brain because it has no capacity to expand beyond the skull.

Q: Is it OK to drink a gallon of water a day?

A: It may depend on your needs and how much water you’re losing. Although 1 gallon or 3.78 liters of water per day is beyond the ideal recommendation of a U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study, remember to listen to your body so you would know if you need to drink a gallon of water a day.

Q: Can I gain weight from drinking too much water?

A: No. In fact, a study found that increased water intake prior to taking the main meal in a hypocaloric diet (diet with a low number of dietary calories) may lead to weight loss.42

Q: Does water make me poop faster?

A: Yes. Insufficient water intake may lead to constipation, making it more difficult for you to eliminate your wastes.43 Warm water was even found to have a positive effect on intestinal movements for people who have undergone laparoscopic cholecystectomy44 or gallbladder removal procedure.45

Q: Does water reduce belly fat?

A: According to a 2014 study, drinking water beyond your normal daily water intake may help reduce your body weight and appetite score, as it may lead to a decreased body mass index and sum of skinfold thickness.46

+ Sources and References
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