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Trying to stay hydrated often feels like a daily struggle. Maybe that’s why so many water recipes are trending on social media — we are on a constant quest to quench our thirsts in new and interesting ways.

The CDC reports that adults drink an average of 44 ounces of water per day way short of the amount we need. This is a problem because plain ol’ H20 is necessary not just to survive, but to thrive. That’s because the majority of your brain, heart, lungs, muscles and kidneys are made of water. You can meet your fluid needs with foods and drinks other than water, but there’s no doubt that water should be your primary beverage. Here’s how much to aim for and 14 easy ways to drink more water that are anything but boring.

Why you should drink more water

Yes, drinking adequate water will prevent dehydration, but it also does so much more. Water helps regulate your body temperature, cushions your joints, supports your body’s natural detoxification process and is needed for healthy circulation.

Also, it’s impossible to feel your best if you aren’t adequately hydrated since your fluid status impacts your mood, memory, focus and energy levels. One study found that after a short period of dehydration, rehydration led to improved alertness, happiness and mental clarity, which is consistent with other research on the subject. Another study found that upon boosting their intake by 1% daily, people ate significantly fewer calories and less sugar and sodium. So, drinking water is an easy lifestyle hack that can help your body and mind function at peak levels.

How much water do you need to drink?

You’ve probably heard that you need 64 ounces of water per day, and while that’s not too far off, you actually need more. The current recommendation is 93 ounces of fluid per day for women and 125 for men. 

About 20% of your fluid intake comes from water-rich foods, like fruits and veggies, leaving your beverage needs at around 70 to 100 ounces per day. That said, you may need more sometimes, such as when you’re exercising or outside on a hot day.

As a dietitian, I don’t suggest stressing too much about tracking your fluid intake. For one, this can get cumbersome quickly. But more importantly, most people can maintain healthy hydration levels by drinking water with each of their three meals and when thirsty throughout the day. (Note that there are conditions, like exercise, that increase fluid needs.)

If you’re curious whether you’re meeting the recommended target, try filling a water bottle and noting the amount of fluid it holds. Then, keep track of how often you refill the bottle. That will give you an idea of whether you need to pay closer attention to your fluid needs.

How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?

The simplest method of determining if you’re drinking enough water is to peek at your pee. Clear or pale yellow indicates that you’re well hydrated. Anything darker could mean you’re under-hydrated, although certain supplements and medications may change the color of your urine. That’s why it’s also helpful to be on the lookout for other signs you may be dehydrated, such as feeling weak, dizzy, fatigued or confused. Dry mouth, headaches, muscle cramps and excessive thirst may also be signs you need to up your fluid intake. Feeling less perky and crankier than usual are other possible signs that your fluid intake isn’t where it needs to be.

14 ways to drink more water

There are numerous reasons water should be your go-to drink: It has no calories, preservatives, sugar, artificial additives (such as colors, sweeteners, or flavors) or caffeine. Granted, other drinks — even caffeinated ones — can contribute to your fluid needs, but water is preferred to drinks with added sugars and artificial ingredients. (By the way, if you add a flavored mix to your water, it’s no longer water. Just check out the first ingredient in your favorite soda to see what I mean.)

Here are 14 ways to boost your water intake:

  1. Know your why. It can be helpful and motivating to understand why you’re trying to drink more water in the first place. There are plenty of great reasons, but one of them might resonate with you the most. Perhaps it’s that you want to feel more hydrated, have more regular bowel movements, or see more clarity in your complexion. Whatever your reason is, write it down so that you have a reminder when you start to feel unmotivated about upping your water intake.
  2. Set a specific goal. Having a specific goal can be helpful for keeping track of your water intake. You can set your water goal in a lot of different ways. For example, you can strive to drink a glass of water every hour or to drink a certain amount per day. The most important aspect of your goal is that it’s specific. If, for example, you intend to drink a glass of water every hour, be clear on what those hours are. If you plan to drink a certain amount of water each day, set an amount measured in cups or ounces.
  3. Set reminders. Use your phone to your advantage! Set an alarm or reminder to go off at least four times per day, aiming to drink at least 16 ounces of water between those intervals. If you’re the kind of person who needs a visual reminder, leave yourself notes in visible places throughout your home, office or car. For example, you can leave yourself a note on your bathroom mirror or your fridge door — wherever you’re most likely to see it!
  4. Replace sugary drinks. The leading source of added sugar in our diets is sweetened drinks, such as soda, sweetened tea, sports drinks, lemonade and coffee drinks that include sugary add-ins. Since sugar contributes to so many health problems, it makes sense to replace these drinks with water. If this swap seems too drastic, add a splash of 100% fruit juice to your H20. Unlike added sugars, 100% juice is naturally sweet and provides nutritional benefits. I prefer adding a splash of real juice over those packaged powdered or liquid mix-ins, whether naturally or artificially colored or sweetened. Real juice contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and it counts as a serving of fruit. Just note that adults should drink no more than 8 ounces of 100% juice daily — whether on its own or added to your water.
  5. Use a water bottle. Park a water bottle on your desk to remind you to drink up. See how much water it holds to ensure you’re getting what you need. For example, if your bottle holds 17 ounces of water, try to refill it at least four times a day. If you’re filling it less often, you may need to set a phone reminder.
  6. Have water with meals. If you drink water with each of your three meals and drink about 16 ounces throughout the four time blocks noted above, you’ll stay well-hydrated most days. That said, there are people and circumstances (such as a workout or a hot day) who need even more. In that case, bump up the amount of water you drink in your daily intervals.
  7. Spruce it up. If drinking water feels like a boring task, consider investing in a colorful water bottle or a beautiful set of water glasses. You may be more likely to hit your water goals if drinking water feels stylish and fun.
  8. Add flavor. If you don’t love plain water, add some flair. Cucumber, lemon, lime, mashed berries, ginger and mint are flavorful, healthy add-ins. Of course, this is a short list. Feel free to play around with any fruit, veggie, herb or seasoning you like!
  9. Drink water when you wake up. You become slightly dehydrated overnight, so it makes sense to start your day with some water. If you’re a coffee-lover, don’t fret. You can get your caffeine buzz before sipping water, but make it a habit to get your day off to the right start by drinking a glass of water before breakfast.
  10. Make festive ice cubes. We eat (and drink) with our eyes, so make your next glass of water extra enticing by adding some pretty ice cubes. There are a few ways to go with this decorative hack. You can make ice cubes out of 100% fruit juice, herbal or regular tea, or, by adding a berry or another bit of fruit, along with water, to each cube in your ice tray.
  11. Enjoy it flat or bubbly. In terms of healthy hydration, it makes no difference whether you like your water still or sparkling. Despite concerns that carbonated water can erode your tooth enamel, the American Dental Association says sparkling water has about the same effect on your tooth enamel as regular H20. Through the years, there have been concerns that carbonated drinks weaken your bones, but that association is tied to soft drinks, not carbonated water. So, if sparkling water helps you stay hydrated, enjoy it! As always, choose one with no artificial flavors or sweeteners.
  12. Invest in a water filter. If the water that comes out of your tap doesn’t taste good to you, it’s going to be hard to drink it! You can get a filter attachment for your faucet or fridge, a stand alone water filter or even a water bottle that has a filter inside.
  13. Alternate between water and other beverages. Let’s be honest: Most of us aren’t going to completely cut coffee or other sips out of our lives. All non-alcoholic drinks contribute to your fluid status, but water is an ideal choice. So consider making a commitment to alternating between beverages. For example, promise yourself that you will drink a full glass of water after your morning coffee or after you sip on a diet soda. All those in-between glasses can really add up!
  14. Reward yourself. If you’re challenging yourself to drink a specific amount of water each day, you may be more motivated if you put a reward in place. Your reward can be cheap and cheerful (say, a new water bottle, book, bottle of nail polish or coffee at your favorite cafe), and you can claim it after three or four weeks of consistently reaching your goal.

Hydrating foods

Eating foods that have a high water content can really boost your hydration. Plus, a lot of them are crunchy, low-calorie snacks so it can’t hurt to have them on hand.

Foods that are 90-99% water:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Pickles
  • Squash (cooked)
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon


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