How Much Water Should You Drink A Day?

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If you’re anything like me, you’re often wondering if you’re drinking enough water. But how much water should you drink a day, really? If I’m not mistaken, we’re all supposed to be drinking more water than we currently are, pretty much no matter what health or fitness goals we might have. In fact, it seems like the “drink more water” imperative applies even to people who don’t have any specific health goals besides “keep being alive.” But the question is: how much is enough? I’m happy to tell you that you don’t have to do the guesswork anymore because we talked to experts who broke it all down.

This is how much water you should drink a day, according to experts.

You’ve probably heard you’re supposed to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. That’s almost enough to fill a two-liter bottle—which even the most type A people may find daunting. But that classic advice can be a little misleading.

“Fluid requirements vary among individuals based on age, sex, activity level, and even where you live,” Jessica Fishman Levinson, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of nutrition counseling company Nutritioulicious tells SELF. So, how much water you should drink a day may actually vary each day, depending on the other things you’re doing, eating, and drinking.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences actually recommends 2.7 (11 cups) liters to 3.7 liters (almost 16 cups) per day. But here’s the twist: They don’t say you need to drink all of that each day. Here’s the deal.

But a lot of stuff counts towards your water intake.

All fluids count toward your daily intake, not just plain old H20. That includes all sources of water—from a basic glass of tap, to a cup of coffee, to the water content of the foods you eat (which, the IOM estimates, makes up about one-fifth of your daily fluid intake). If you listen to your body—drink when you’re thirsty, eat when you’re hungry—chances are you’re going to get what you need, or pretty close to it. So stop sweating the whole eight glasses a day thing and think about it this way instead.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the benchmark should really say “eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid,” not water, because drinking things like milk, tea, and juice contribute to your total. “Good options for hydration without added calories are waters infused with fruit and herbs, unsweetened tea, and sparkling water,” Levinson says. And by the way, regarding coffee, decent news for coffee lovers: As mentioned above, coffee indeed counts toward your water intake. The rub, though, is that caffeine is a diuretic, which means that when you drink coffee, you may pee more than usual. So, whatever water you get from the coffee is likely balanced out by the extra peeing. Hey, at least it’s not extra dehydrating, right?

Your diet can affect your daily water intake, too.

“Your body absorbs water in foods just like it would liquids,” Levinson says. Many fruits and vegetables have high water content. Some good options: watermelon (duh), cucumbers, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, strawberries, oranges, and grapefruit. Even soup and popsicles count as fluids.

But some foods and drinks can increase how much water you need. “Foods with a diuretic effect may cause you to excrete more water so you may need more,” Levinson says. If you eat high-sodium foods, your body likely will retain more water, leaving you thirstier. Drinking more fluids will help dilute your system and get fluids moving regularly again.

So, how can you tell if you’re getting enough water?

Since you’re not always keeping track of these sneaky sources of fluids, the best way to gauge your daily water intake is by how your body feels.

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