For such a simple habit, drinking water has caused us far more than its fair share of confusion. How much do you really need? And how can you make sure you’re getting enough? Well, not to burst your bubble, but you can start by forgetting that whole eight glasses thing.
As we’ve written before, that rule about drinking eight glasses of water every day isn’t actually based on scientific evidence. In fact, in 2007, the BMJdubbed it one of the most common medical myths.
But that doesn’t mean you can forget about your daily water needs altogether. As the Mayo Clinic explains, your body loses water every day as you sweat, pee, and breathe — and it all needs to be replaced. If it doesn’t, you’re looking at potential dehydration, which can either be annoying or pretty dang awful: On the less serious end, you might have a headache, dry mouth, and dark urine without enough water. But, as you become more dehydrated, you can develop a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, confusion, and lightheadedness.
So, yeah, it’s definitely important to make sure you’re getting enough water. But the exact amount of water that we each lose and need to replenish isn’t as simple to figure out. As it turns out, that daily requirement is going to be pretty different for everyone depending on all sorts of factors. For instance, the amount of water you need to drink every day will go up if you regularly work out, live in a warm or humid city, have been dealing with a cold, or are pregnant or nursing, says the Mayo Clinic.
As a starting point, the National Institute of Medicine recommends women consume 91 ounces of water per day (which, truthfully, isn’t that far off from the eight glasses thing). But it’s crucial that you adjust that guideline to take the rest of your lifestyle into account. And, luckily, nature has gifted us with a few clues about when we need to drink more or less water: In general, you should be fine as long as you drink when you’re thirsty and keep your urine on the lighter side (no, it doesn’t have to be clear).
That said, it is possible to drink too much water. In rare cases (most commonly among hardcore athletes), you can drink so much water that it throws your body’s sodium levels out of whack. This condition, called hyponatremia, can be serious and even deadly. So don’t force yourself to drink more water than you really need.
Let’s also remember that drinking water doesn’t have to be a lame chore, even if you aren’t the biggest fan of plain H2O: You can get your fix in the form of sparkling water, tea, or even water-filled foods (e.g. juicy berries and fresh cucumbers). You kinda need water to stay alive or whatever, so maybe it’s worth figuring out a way to get what you need, eh?