One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to improve your health and well-being is to drink plenty of water. However, many people find it difficult to drink as much water as they should. Luckily, there are some simple strategies that can make it easier.
Why Drink Water?
The human body requires water to function. Adequate intake of water and electrolytes promotes the health of your digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, confusion, and dull skin tone. For many people, a feeling of thirst only becomes apparent after significant dehydration. So if you’re feeling a little sluggish or off, try drinking some water as your first recourse.
How Much Water, Really?
As with many other wellness topics, there are many different approaches to this question. The amount of water you should be drinking will vary depending on many factors, including:
- your activity level
- your age, height, and weight
- the temperature and humidity of your environment
- your health status, medications, and supplements
- amount and type of food and other beverages consumed
For many years, the standard recommendation for water intake offered by many health professionals has been eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. This is an easy to remember general guideline.
The Institute of Medicine’s dietary reference values suggest that on average, women should drink 2.7 liters of water from all food and beverage sources, and men 3.7 liters. The report notes that 80% of most people’s water intake comes from beverages.
Some studies suggest that caffeinated beverages have a negative effect on your overall water intake; others suggest that they too can count towards your total. Hypothetically, if you were eating large quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables, your actual water intake could be very low and you would still stay hydrated. But given the standard American diet, most people can benefit from making sure to drink water at intervals throughout the day.
One of the best ways to figure out how well hydrated you are is to check the color of your urine. As the Mayo Clinic suggests,
if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or slightly yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably adequate.
How to Make Sure You Drink Enough
If you’d like to improve your water intake, here are some strategies that can make it easier:
Set a specific goal, measured in a convenient form: a target number of glasses or bottles to drink is easier for most people to keep track of than total ounces or liters.
Plan how and where you’ll drink water: do you need to make sure you have a water bottle with you during your commute or at your desk? Are there certain times of day when you want to be sure to drink more water, like before your workout?
Track your water intake. If you’re trying to start a new habit or change a behavior, one of the best things you can do is to track what you’re doing.
Some easy ways to do this include:
- Put a post-it note or index card on the front of the refrigerator and record a check mark each time you fill up your glass. This works best if you’ll be in one location for much of the day.
- If you use a refillable water bottle, put rubber bands around the base to mark your your target number of fill-ups. Simply remove one each time you empty the bottle. This gives you a clear visual reminder of how you’re doing.
- Use an online habit tracking program like Joe’s Goals to record your progress
- Download a water-drinking tracker for your smartphone. Many of these programs include enjoyable visualizations of your progress and the option of setting reminders. Consider Water Tracker or Waterlogged for iPhone; for Android, try Drink Water or Drinking Water. There are many other similar widgets and apps available.
What’s your favorite tip to make sure you drink enough water? Let us know in the comments!
[Creative Commons licensed photo by flickr user Greg Riegler Photography]