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Why do we need water?
Water is one of the main components of our bodies. Each cell in the body is about 80% water. This means that an adult body is made up of 50-65% water, and the brain is made up of 75% water. Essentially, we are made of water, which is why it is so important that we drink enough water.
Water is the body’s main transportation system. Blood is over 90% water. Oxygen, nutrients, hormones and immune cells move around the body in water. At the cellular level, transportation into and out of the cells often depends on concentration gradients.
Water is also found in lymph fluid, which is another part of our body’s transportation system. The lymphatic system moves fluid from the body back to the circulatory system. Lymph is an important part of the immune system. It helps to move white blood cells through the body. Water is also needed in the immune system to produce mucus to protect us from anything foreign trying to enter the body.
Water is essential for removing toxins from the body. Blood transports waste products to the liver for detoxification. And then, waste products are removed from the body through urine, tears, sweat, and feces.
Water has several other roles in our bodies. It is necessary to lubricate joints and makes saliva. We need to drink enough water to regulate our temperature through sweating. Water is also needed to protect the spinal cord, brain and unborn fetus.
Drinking enough water is also important for your brain health and mental health. When you get enough water to drink, you tend to feel more alert and you have more energy.
How much water do you need?
Knowing how much water is enough seems like a fairly simple question, but it is actually quite complex. The common response is 8 to 10 glasses a day, but this isn’t based on any specific research. There is actually considerable variation in how much water people need depending on diet, exercise, body size, climate, health, other sources of fluids (soup, herbal tea, juicy fruits and vegetables, etc.) and previous level of hydration.
While most people don’t drink enough water, it is possible to drink too much water and that can be dangerous. Drinking too much water can affect the balance between your electrolyte levels.
Sipping on water all day long is the best way to drink enough water. When you drink too much water at a time, your body can’t absorb it all and use it. And, it is uncomfortable to drink too much water at once – think about the feeling of water sloshing around in your stomach.
Dr. Batmanghelidj, who is known for his writing about the risks of Unintentional Chronic Dehydration, says
To better determine how much water you need each day, divide your body weight in half. The answer is the approximate number of water ounces you should drink daily. You should drink half of your body weight in ounces. If you weight 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces water (3.13 quarts, 2.98 liters or about 10-12 cups of water a day). If you weigh closer to 100 pounds you will need only about 50 ounces of water or about four 12-ounce glasses daily. (source)
I suggest you use this formula as a starting point, and then adjust it. You should drink more water when
- you are active,
- the weather is hot,
- you are pregnant or breastfeeding,
- you are prone to urinary tract infections or kidney stones,
- you are constipated,
- you are chronically dehydrated,
- you are eating a ketogenic diet.
You might need less water if you consume liquid through other sources like soup, tea, juicy fruits and vegetables. Most importantly, pay attention to your body. Consider how you feel before and after having water. What feels like the optimal amount for you?
Will a water filter help me drink enough water?
A water filter might make a difference. A water filter can save you money if you usually buy bottled water. Filtering your water can help water taste better, and a water filter might encourage you to drink more by making it easier.
In most communities, tap water is free from water-borne illnesses. The question about water filters then focuses on removing the chemicals used in the water treatment and transportation processes, and the chemicals added to the water like fluoride.
The Environmental Working Group (well-known for their list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 to help consumers select which fruits and vegetables are highest in pesticide levels, and their ranking of personal care products) identify over 300 chemical contaminants found in tap water. They recommend people use a water filtration system to remove these chemicals in water that is used for cooking and drinking.
There are several options for water filters. A pitcher style filter (example of brand names: Britta, Mavea and Zero) can be stored in the fridge to provide one to two litres of water filtered through a carbon filter. Larger countertop filtration systems (example of brand names: Santevia and Berkey) can filter more contaminants and hold more water. Other filter options include reverse osmosis, which actually uses more water than it produces, and household systems, which filter all the water used in a house. Some filter makers also produce smaller filtration systems for water bottles.
I personally use a Santevia countertop system. It has an 8-stage filter and it re-mineralizes the water to replace minerals removed during the filtration process. Having the water filter on the counter makes it visible and reminds me to drink enough water.
Visit the EWG for more information about ensuring your water is safe to drink.
20 Easy Ways to Drink Enough Water:
- Fill a bowl with 10-12 paperclips (or another small object). Take one paperclip out of the bowl every time you drink a glass of water. When the bowl is empty, you know you’ve had enough water. Just for fun, you can use the paperclips to make a necklace.
- Set a timer on your phone to remind you to drink water regularly.
- Use an app to keep track of how much water you drink like Waterlogged, WaterO or MyFitnessPal.
- Connect drinking water with another activity you do frequently like checking email, walking by the table or answering the phone. Have some water every time you do that activity.
- Set a goal to drink a full water bottle in the morning, another one in the afternoon and another one in the evening. This will help you drink enough water throughout the day.
- Fill a large pitcher of water and drink all of it every day.
7. Put a dot on your finger. Every time you see it, have a sip of water.
8. Always have some water close by – on your desk, in your bag, in the car.
9. Whenever you give your child a drink, have one yourself.
10. Create your own drinking game. Your child asks for a snack – 1 sip. Your email pings – 2 sips. You check Facebook – 3 sips. Or, have everyone in the car take a sip at every red light. This also helps to be sure your kids drink enough water.
11. Have a full glass of water every time you take vitamins or medication.
12. Before you have any beverage containing sugar, caffeine or alcohol (i.e. pop, juice, coffee, tea, cola, alcoholic beverages), have a glass of water first. This simple technique can be helpful in changing habits over time by crowding out what you usually reach for with a healthier option. You don’t need to stop drinking these beverages, but to ensure you drink enough water first.
13. Drink herbal tea, vegetable juice, and flavour-infused water for variety. Try citrus fruit, berries, mint or cucumber.
14. Create a competition with a coworker, friend or child — or with yourself. See who can drink their required amount of water for the day quickest (but safely) or the most days in a week.
15. If you’re breastfeeding, have a BIG glass of water every time you nurse.
16. Add juicy fruits (melon, grapes, oranges) and vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes, celery) to your diet to eat more of your water.
17. Make flavoured ice cubes using berries or herbs for hot days.
18. Every time water leaves your body through sweat, urine or tears, add some in.
19. Make it fun: Get a nice water bottle, use a straw, or find a lovely coaster.
20. Decorate your water bottle with inspiring quotes or photos.
21. Have some water whenever you start to feel hungry or have cravings. If you still feel hungry, then consider eating.
22. Start your morning with a large glass of water and keep one beside your bed at night. Be proactive in providing your body with water in the morning rather than waiting until later in the day to rehydrate.