Why and How to Drink More Water Effortlessly.
This post originally appeared on DailyFoodFacts.
Drink More Water for Better Health
How much water did you drink today? Probably not enough.
It’s 1 pm and I already drank 2 liters (67 oz) of water and will reach my goal and the official recommendation of 3.7 liters (125 oz) for men who exercise with little trouble.
Water is almost as essential as air. You won’t die within minutes but within a couple of days. It is said that a person can live without water for around 3 days but without food several months.
Maybe it is that way because every human being is mainly made out of water. Adults consist of 65% of bodily fluids and almost every process in your cell requires water to function properly. Your brain consists of almost 80% water.
It’s also worth mentioning that around 20% of your water intake comes from food and this number is higher if you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. Keep that in mind as we’ll come back to that later.
Here’s what you can expect in this post.
- Official Recommendations.
- Personal Adjustments.
- Signs you are not drinking enough.
- What your body needs water for.
- Water & weight, one of the best motivators?
- What you can expect when you start drinking more water.
- Your personal water intake formula.
- The one thing that will increase your water intake unconsciously & is almost backed by science.
- Other tips for increasing your water intake.
- Interesting tools for your water intake.
Let’s get started.
Since “how much water should I drink a day” is one of the 10 most popular questions asked on the internet, people don’t seem to know how much water they should drink.
While there are many official recommendations, they are also quite ambiguous. One of the most popular recommendation is the 8×8 method which says to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water, which adds up to around 1.9 liters (64 oz). Unfortunately, nobody really knows where this came from, but everybody repeats it.
Maybe this came into existence because it was so easy to remember.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women drink around 2.2 – 2.7 liters (75-91 oz) and men around 3.2 – 3.7 liters (108 – 125 oz). What you need to remember is that these guidelines are for the total fluid intake and thus include the fluids from food, which as stated before is around 20%.
When it comes to official recommendations there is a problem with all of these: they are general and not based on your subjective need for water, which can vary quite a lot as you’ll learn when you read on.
Your water need depends not only your weight but also on the climate you live in, your daily activity, as well as the food you eat. You need to make personal adjustments. Here are some of the most common influences:
- Living in a hotter climate will make you sweat more, which requires you to drink more water. In the winter, a heated indoor environment can also cause your skin to dry out. To prevent this you should either keep the humidity in a good range (40-60%) or you should drink more water. Living at higher altitudes can cause rapid breathing and higher urination, both of which result in more fluid loss.
- If you exercise until you sweat you need additional water to compensate for the fluid loss. Depending on the kind of exercise you engage in, regarding length, intensity and how much you personally sweat you need to drink more or less additional water. You’ll learn how much exactly below when calculating your personal water intake. If you are exercising for longer periods of time, for example by running a marathon you might use a drink that contains sodium, to make up for the loss due to sweating.
- When you are sick, for example having a fever or diarrhea you need to drink water, maybe even supplemented with electrolytes, which are minerals in your blood, for example, potassium, calcium and sodium. You lose those electrolytes when sweating or through your stool. When having a bladder infection, you should also increase you water intake to make up for the lost fluids. With other health conditions, like heart failure or kidney or liver disease you actually need to limit your water intake, because your excretion of water doesn’t function properly.
- Breastfeeding and pregnancy
- When you’re pregnant or breastfeeding you need to increase you water intake to stay hydrated. If you’re not sure about that you should definitely talk to your doctor about that.
Signs that you are not drinking enough
You might ask yourself how you can know if you’re drinking enough water. There are several signs, but the most obvious sign is thirst.
Other signs include:
- Dry skin and lips
- Mood swings
- Joint pains
The list goes on, but also besides thirst, those signs are quite intangible and can be caused by several other causes. One of the best and reliable sign is checking your pee. It’s the most subjective and personal feedback you’ll have.
When you’re not drinking enough water your urine will have a dark, concentrated yellow color. Ideally, your pee should have a light yellow color, somewhat like pale straw. There’s a great infographic about the different colours of your pee. You can find it here.
Checking the color of your pee should show you where you are at the moment and what you need to do. Drink more water when you have dark coloured by or drink less water when your pee is colourless.
What your body needs water for.
In order to drink more water, or more specifically, develop a habit of drinking more water you need to know why you should do it. If the section of above with all the negative consequences of not drinking enough water was enough to convince you, you can skip this section. If not, read on.
As mentioned in the beginning your body needs water for almost all processes, but here are a few more specific ones:
- Your body needs water to digest your food and dissolve the nutrients in it. Water is also used to absorb the water soluble vitamins which include all B-Vitamins and Vitamin C.
- Get rid of waste products.
- There are waste products that accumulate in your body every day. In order to get rid of them, your body needs water, to simply flush them out.
- Biochemical reactions
- During your day, there are a ton of biochemical actions taking place in your body. From digesting food to producing energy or tissues and your body needs water for all of these processes.
- Temperature regulation
- Why do you think you sweat? It’s your body trying to cool you down. If there is too little water this process won’t work and your body will overheat and this could result in having a heatstroke. Additionally, because there is more blood flowing to your skin it can put a strain on your heart.
- Whether it’s for your joints or other moving parts, without water things won’t go as smoothly.
Water & weight loss, one of the best motivators?
What appears to be a major question that many people have been if drinking more water will help you lose weight.
First of all, water is not some magic drink that will help you drop the weight you’ve been wanting to drop since college. And by the way: there is no such drink so don’t fall into the trap of clever marketers.
The second, more exciting thing is: yes, water can actually help you in your weight loss journey. As I mentioned above, water won’t haven a direct effect, but there are several indirect effects.
Water will make you feel full.
A study at the University of Birmingham compared the weight loss of people who drank 0,5 liters of water half an hour before every meal and people who only imagined feeling full. After 12 weeks the water group lost an additional 2.87 pounds (1,3 KG) just by drinking water. Other studies got similar results.
A possible explanation for this is that water makes you feel fuller and, as a result, you decrease your food intake. The same effect is true if you compare eating vegetables with a vegetable soup. The soup has more volume and as a result, you’ll feel less hungry afterwards.
Sometimes your thirsty, not hungry.
With food being everywhere around us, it’s easy to feel hungry all the time. Unfortunately, many of us misinterpret the signs our body gives us and confuse being hungry with being thirsty.
If you feel hungry you should, and this goes hand in hand with the first point, drink something before eating anything. Give your body time to recognise the fluid intake and see how you feel after 15 to 20 minutes. If you still feel hungry it’s time to eat something.
Drinking water can increase the calories you burn.
Although this sounds like a direct effect, it is not. When drinking water, it’s usually colder than your body temperature, so your body needs to spend energy to warm the water from room temperature 22°C (71°F) to 37°C (98°F).
This effect of burning more calories started in most studies around 10 minutes after drinking water and lasted up to 60 minutes, increasing the energy expenditure by around 25%. To take advantage of this effect you need to drink at least 500ml (17 oz) of water, because the increased energy expenditure didn’t occur when drinking less.
Drinking water can reduce the consumption of other beverages.
Water is calorie free and if you replace other beverages, like soda or juices with water you’ll naturally take in fewer calories. This holds only true if you drink water instead of them, not in addition to.
According to observational studies drinking mostly water can decrease your calorie intake by up to 200 calories per day.
What you can expect when you start drinking more water.
You now already know a lot about what, but maybe you’re still not 100% convinced. I get it. Since water is natural, 100% calorie free & costs almost nothing and not expensive and produced by a major corporation, it is natural to have doubts.
Water can have many positive effects on your health and your general well-being. First of all, as already mentioned it is necessary for the majority of process in your body, so by drinking enough water you can expect to simply feel better. Maybe your joint pains will reduce or your eyes won’t be so dry anymore.
Additionally, if you want to lose weight or prevent weight gain, water might help you with that as mentioned above. I’m sure you don’t care about the exact reason why this happens, it’s just important that it happens.
You will not only feel better, but you will also look better. There are several self-experiments online where people started to drink more water and took a photograph at the beginning and at the end. Their skin looked better, they had fewer wrinkles and a natural glow.
There might be other reasons for these improvements, but let’s assume those experiments are valid.
You are also more likely to feel more energetic and less tired if you drink water during the day. This will benefit your exercise routine as well because properly hydrated muscles work better than dehydrated ones.
Your bowel function may improve so don’t be surprised if your trips to the bathroom go more smoothly. It’s not only that drinking enough water helps the kidneys to get rid of toxins, but it also prevents the colon from extracting water from the stool to ensure hydration.
Your personal water intake formula
Water is essential and you should really make sure to drink enough, I hope you’re convinced by now! Are you? Great!
So let’s get to the important stuff and figure out how much you should drink during the day and how you can do that.
As mentioned in the beginning, the Institute of Medicine recommended that women drink 2.2 – 2.7 liters (75-91 oz) and men around 3.2 – 3.7 liters (108 – 125 oz). I’ll explain the variation of these numbers in a second, but to be on the safe site, let’s the upper limit to begin with.
Women: 2.7 liters (85 oz)
Men: 3.7 liters (125 oz)
Now, let’s get your daily activities into the formula as well.
Foods you eat:
The solid foods you eat account for around 20% of your daily water intake, but again, it depends on the foods you eat. If you’re consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables you can easily get more than 20% of your water intake through food. If on the other hand you’re consuming a lot of processed (& “dry) foods, you are likely getting less than 20% of water.
Subtracting the 20% of your water intake from food we’ll end up with the following amounts of water you should actually drink.
Women: ~2.2 liters (74 oz).
Men: ~3.0 liters (101 oz).
Remember this applies only if you eat enough “water-rich” foods: such as cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, watermelon, broccoli, carrots and various other fruits and vegetables.
Now that we took care of the food intake, let’s take a closer look at your personal water intake formula. Here are a few common influences that you should take into account.
Exercise: +0.5 liters (17 oz).
Depending on the amount you sweat and the intensity of the exercise this amount can vary, but you should be on the safe side with this. If you’re running a marathon or a triathlon this won’t apply.
Sickness: + 0.5 – 1 liters (17 to 34 oz)
Depending on your sickness you need to adjust this. In cases where you lose a lot of fluid, i.e. diarrhoea, you should drastically increase your fluid intake and maybe supplement with electrolytes. In prolonged cases, you should definitely contact your doctor.
Pregnancy: + 1 liters (34 oz)
This is just a rough recommendation. In order to be safe, you should contact your doctor.
Cold & dry climate: ~+0,5 liters (17 oz)
Living in a (very) cold & dry environment could mess with your sense of thirst. Every time you breathe, your body is forced to heat and humidify the air you breathe in. This causes a significant fluid loss over the course of the day. You’ll especially experience this when you sleep in a dry climate. If in the morning your nose, mouth & throat are likely to feel very dry, you’ll need to drink more water and probably increase the humidity of the room.
Additionally, this will also make you more susceptible to diseases, because your mucous membranes need to be humid to fight off bacteria and viruses.
There might be other personal influences and if I missed a critical one, please send me a message or leave a comment (LINK) and I will add it to the list. What this should do is give you a rough estimate on how much water you should drink during your usual day. I don’t know how much exercise you do or if you live in a dry environment, so the best person to determine your water intake is you.
The one thing that will increase your water intake unconsciously & is almost backed by science.
All the knowledge you now have about water will be useless if you don’t apply it and actually drink more water. That’s what this and the next section is for. I want to give you recommendations on how you can increase your daily water intake, so you’ll get the benefits of it.
I must say that this is water worked for me, but don’t take my word for it and please try it for yourself. Let me know about your experiences!
The best thing I found to increase the daily water intake is: get a bigger glass.
Yes. It’s really that simple. Let me ask you a question and then show you a related example and explain why this will probably work.
What do you think when drinking water? “I’ll drink 0.5 liters (17 oz) of water” or “I’ll drink a glass of water”? Probably the latter. Continuing.
You’ve probably heard of the “Smaller Plate Study”. In case you haven’t here it is in two sentences:
In 2003, Dr Brain Ransack & Dr Koert van Ittersum examined the effect of using 10-inch plates instead of 12-inch plates on the amount of food participants eat, without affecting their satisfaction or perceived fullness. The results were, that this unconscious change, lead to a 22% decrease in calorie being served (& consumed) because the smaller plates make a normal portion seem bigger.
Since then reducing the size of your plate has been common advice to everybody who wants to eat less food. Let’s just turn this around.
By increasing the size of your glass, you probably unconsciously increase your water intake. I haven’t found a study on this, but for me it perfectly makes sense. Just as the smaller plates make a normal serving seem bigger, a bigger glass makes a normal serving of water seem smaller.
Makes sense, right?
Here’s what I did. I got a 0.5 liter (17 oz) glass and got rid of my 0.3 liters (10 oz) glasses. This way, whenever I’m drinking “a glass of water”, I’m almost consuming twice the amount of water I originally did. This makes drinking water much less daunting because I actually only need to drink around 7 glasses of water, instead of 12.
Action: Get a bigger glass of water.
If you try this, please let me know if it works for you.
Other tips for increasing your water intake.
Besides using a bigger glass there are several other tips that might work for you. You probably heard most of them, in that case just use them as a reminder. I’m starting with my favourite.
Drinking a glass of water right after waking up.
When I wake up in the morning I’ll see a glass of water right in front of me and although I’ve been doing this for several months now, I still catch myself thinking: “I can’t drink right now”. This doesn’t happen every day, but once in awhile. I few minutes later I’ve already consumed almost 15% of my daily water need and the day hasn’t even started.
That’s a great feeling. You probably think about this the same way I did, in the way that you can’t drink this much water that early in the morning. Try it. You’ll get used to it after a week. Not only will you have a head start when it comes to drinking water, but at the same time, you’ll feel energetic afterwards, because you’re replacing all the fluids you lost during the night, since your exhaling water vapor.
Action: Before going to bed, place a full glass of water on your desk.
Place a full glass of water on your desk.
Right next to my laptop on my desk is this 0,5 liters (17 oz) glass of water. Every time I look at it I take a sip. It’s almost drinking unconsciously. Have you ever been to a party and there was a bowl of pretzels on the table and you ate from it unconsciously? Well, that’s the same thing, but not junk snacks, but precious water.
Action: Place a full glass of water on your desk and drink from it continuously.
Upgrade your water.
I get it. Water gets boring, but it doesn’t have to be. Vary still and sparkling water or add lemon, cucumber or other fruits to your water. Experiment with it and try to find something that suits you. From time to time try to make your own lemonade or mix your water with fruit juices. Don’t do this all the time, but in case, you get bored with drinking water. Tea does count as well, especially if it doesn’t have any caffeine.
Action: Try different additions to your water.
Filter your water.
This is last on my list because I’m living in Germany and there you can drink the water straight from the tap. If you are living in a country where there’s chlorine added to the water, I would suggest you filter the water beforehand. Although it’s not proven yet, but chlorine is associated with an increased risk of cancer. Don’t take your chances and get a filter. Filtered water also tastes better so you’re likely to drink more. Being able to drink from the tap is also making things easier, which is important for building this habit.
Action: Filter your water.
Interesting tools for your water intake.
This is just an addition to this article because I stumbled upon some interesting gadgets during my research for this article.
A plain old pitcher.
In case, you’re having trouble with tracking your water intake you could get a pitcher and fill it up in the morning. It should be big enough to hold all the water you need for the day, so you don’t need to refill it. Every morning fill it up and use it to fill your glasses. This works only if you use one pitcher for one person.
I don’t own one of these, but I think there are interesting especially if you want to infuse your water with fruits or vegetables. You can find several of those in amazon. If you have one let other people know what you think of them.
You can think of this as a Pitcher 2.0. It’s a water bottle that tracks your water intake on your phone. I don’t own any of these, but it’s an interesting concept as well.
There are several mobile apps you can use to track your water intake. For me, those do not work because I find it draining to add every glass of water to the app, but maybe they’ll work for you.
Remember, you don’t need any of these tools to increase your water intake and get the health benefits, they just might be helpful to some of you.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on water and I hope I could convince you to drink more water, as well as to give you helpful tips and tricks and how you can do that.
Remember: Change your environment to favour your healthy choices.
Featured photo credit: pixabay.com via pixabay.com