Most people tend to think about water only when they’re thirsty — maybe while working out or spending time outside on a hot, sunny day. But water is a vital part of a healthy life all day long. It’s essential for regulating body temperature, improving the appearance of the skin, boosting energy, ensuring healthy organ function, and keeping metabolism humming, among many other benefits.
A new study reveals physical activity level isn’t the only factor in determining how much water we need. If your diet contains processed foods, particularly those high in salt or sugar, you’re much more likely to become dehydrated.
How to tell if you’re dehydrated
“If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated,” says Jesse, an NASM-certified personal trainer with extensive nutrition knowledge. While thirst might seem like the most obvious way to tell if you’re dehydrated, MYXfitness trainer Davanna points out that hunger is a lesser-known sign. “If you think you’re hungry but you ate recently, try drinking a glass of water and see if the hunger subsides,” she suggests.
Other signs of dehydration include a dry mouth and lips, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, dark-colored urine, and dry skin.
How much water do we really need?
Everyone’s specific needs are different, but Davanna recommends a daily baseline of about 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 liters for men, which is 11 to 15 cups.
When you’re working out, you need more fluids than normal. As a general rule, Davanna doesn’t count the water she drinks during exercise toward her daily intake — instead, she drinks extra on top of her baseline amount.
Tricks to boost your water intake
It might seem obvious, but Jesse says having a great water bottle was a game-changer for her water consumption. “If you have a bottle you enjoy using, you’ll automatically drink more,” she says. If you don’t enjoy plain water, she suggests adding calorie-free flavoring, such as lemon juice or a mint/cucumber infusion.
Davanna uses the HidrateSpark app to track her water intake. She also suggests making drinking water a part of your workout regimen. “If you schedule a rhythm ride with me, for example, you should also schedule how much water you’ll drink during and after the ride,” she says. The app makes it easy.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any element of health that can’t be improved by drinking enough water. Get a water bottle you love, consider downloading a hydration tracking app, and stay consistent with your daily intake. The results may surprise you.