Did you know that roughly 60% of the human body is water?
Water provides support to every single system in the body and without it, we can't function. Given how important it is, you'd think people would pay more attention to it. But unlike nutrition, which requires some forward planning, water is just part of our day. It happens when it happens and it's easy to forget about. Unfortunately, that approach to hydration leaves many of us with a lower water intake than we need. That means we're leaving some health and performance benefits on the table, day after day.
Unless you're consistently dehydrated, it's probably not going to kill you, but improving your hydration can help you perform better and support long-term health. If you're in the dark about how much to drink or how to actually make it happen, keep reading.
How much water do we really need?
The 8x8 rule is a recommendation that health authorities have used for many years: eight cups of water, eight times a day. That's just shy of two litres of water, and it's probably a solid starting point for most people. We say probably because water intake is a surprisingly divisive topic, and there's no substantial research that backs up 8x8. In fact, there's not much research to back up any intake recommendation.
Instead of focusing on a universal number which doesn't exist, it's better to think about hydration in similar ways to nutrition. You're likely to dynamically adjust your calorie intake up or down depending on how you feel and what activities you've done that day. You might have a heavier meal after a tough workout, or cut a snack out on a rest day. You should approach hydration the same way, as water intake requirements vary depending on a variety of factors.
You might need more water if:
- You live in a hot and dry environment.
- You exercise regularly.
- You're pregnant or breastfeeding.
In other words, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration. The best thing you can do is experiment with your intake until you find the right number for you. And even when you find that number, remember to account for what's going on in your life and around you, and adjust as needed.
Tips for staying hydrated
If you're not naturally aware of your hydration—most of us probably aren't—then you'll need to dedicate extra effort to keeping up with it. Just as water intake varies, so too will the method for making this happen.
- Be the person with the gigantic jug. You know who we're talking about. You might secretly judge that person...like, who really needs a bottle that big? But maybe it's time to give it a shot.
- Set reminders. If you're really struggling to remember to hydrate, try setting reminders or alarms on your phone. It's definitely the most annoying option, but let's just call that incentive to start remembering before the alarm goes off.
- Sip after an action. Find something that you do multiple times per day—the more the better. Every time you do that action, take a big sip from your water bottle.
- Use a water-tracking app. There's an app for everything these days, so take advantage of it. Log your water the same way you'd log your calories, and set goals as needed.
- Mix it up. If your taste buds are a bigger limiting factor than your memory, try adding some flavour to your water. There are plenty of zero calorie and minimal ingredient mixes available to make water more enjoyable.