How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day? Plus Signs You're Hydrated

Optimal daily water intake differs for everyone, but here's how to make sure you stay properly hydrated.

How many pints of water should you drink a day? Well, most people assume that eight glasses is enough for optimal health and digestion. And that's a great rule of thumb, but the truth is there isn't one standard amount of water that everyone should be drinking. The amount of water you should drink daily is probably different from how much your spouse, sister, and coworker need.

Colorful drinking glasses full of water, drinking glasses, still life, glasses of water, conceptual image for hydration
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It's smart to listen to your body to figure out your ideal water intake because drinking too much or too little water can affect everything from metabolism to mood. For example, if you quickly consume two liters when it's cool out and you are relatively sedentary, it's possible you could be drinking too much water. More commonly, you are likely not drinking enough. We asked top health experts to help us hone in on an amount of water that makes sense for each of us.

Why You Need to Drink Water

Drinking water not only benefits our health, but it is arguably the single most important thing you can do for your body. In fact, it's difficult, if not impossible, for your body to function without it. Since all of your cells use water, it's absolutely essential to stay properly hydrated. And while drinking water might not moisturize your skin, it can help maintain skin elasticity, which is a good indicator of your overall hydration level (more on this later).

"Water is a transporter of substances and nutrients throughout the body," says Drew Sinatra, ND. "It's important for temperature regulation (sweating is your body's way of releasing heat and cooling you down). Drinking water can also flush out toxins, lubricate joints, help relieve constipation, improve concentration, focus, energy, skin elasticity, mood, and overall health."

Daily Recommended Intake

While studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, when it comes to meeting the hydration levels of the average healthy adult, most health experts do generally recommend drinking around two liters a day, or about eight 8-ounce glasses of water. "This amount can include water, other liquid beverages, and water-dense foods," says Serena Poon, a nutritionist and reiki master. "With my clients, I recommended a goal of about 2 liters of water per day to maintain healthy levels of hydration."

However, you might be drinking the recommended amount and still find yourself dehydrated. There are several additional factors that help determine how much water you should drink daily. "Age (elderly people need less water), activity level (challenging workouts and sauna therapy require more water), diet (high protein, sodium, or fiber-rich diets require more water), climate (hot, dry climate or an elevated terrain require more water), and certain medications are some factors that might affect how much water an individual needs," Sinatra says.

How to Tell if You're Drinking Enough Water Every Day

Examine your urine color and frequency.

Before you begin to count glasses, liters, or ounces, you might want to start by looking at your urine. "A great way to measure if you're getting enough water is your urine color and frequency," Sinatra says. "Urinating every 90 minutes to two hours is normal. If your urine is a dark amber color and you're only urinating every six hours, or longer, it's likely you aren't hydrated enough. If your frequency is every 30 minutes and your urine is completely clear, you may be getting too much water, and it's likely going right through your body instead of benefiting you."

Pay attention to your skin elasticity.

Another way to get an idea of your hydration level, especially for kids and the elderly, is to check your skin turgor, which is your skin's elasticity. "Pinch the skin on the back of your hand for a few seconds and then release," Sinatra says. "If your skin turgor snaps back quickly into place, you're probably well hydrated. If it takes time to return to its normal position, you may be dehydrated." Said another way: One of the benefits of drinking water is a tighter, more glowing complexion. Other symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, brain fog, and fatigue," notes Sinatra.

Delicious Ways to Drink (and Eat) More Water

If you're having trouble drinking enough water, there are several ways to boost your water intake beyond plain old water. You can try infusing water with fruit, adding frozen fruit (instead of ice cubes) to your water, or opt for seltzer water with a healthy boost (no-sugar-added varieties are best). You can also focus on consuming foods with high water content. Many fruits and vegetables are water-dense, making them an excellent source of hydration.

The Most Hydrating Fruits

Poon recommends these fruits with a high water content to help you stay hydrated:

  • Strawberries (91% water content)
  • Watermelon (92% water content)
  • Cantaloupe (90% water content)
  • Grapefruit (91% water content)
  • Peach (88% water content)
  • Pineapple (87% water content)
  • Oranges (87% water content)
  • Coconut water (95% water content)
  • Raspberries (86% water content)

The Most Hydrating Vegetables

Water-rich veggies are another simple, accessible way to add more water (and electrolytes) to your diet. Some seasonal and year-round options include:

  • Cucumber (95% water content)
  • Zucchini (95% water content)
  • Tomatoes (95% water content)
  • Cauliflower (92% water content)
  • Cabbage (92% water content)
  • Iceberg lettuce (96% water content)
  • Celery (95% water content)
  • Green peppers (94% water content)
  • Romaine (95% water content)
  • Spinach (92% water content)

Another great way to eat your way to better hydration is with soup. "Heat up a nice chicken or bone broth and throw in some potassium-rich foods like celery, carrots, or potatoes," Sinatra says. "Keep the salt low, but a little sodium is actually good for your hydration."

Stews, chilis, smoothies, popsicles, slushies, and tea are also excellent, hydrating choices, according to Leslie J. Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN. But make sure to stick with water-rich ingredients like those mentioned above and avoid too much added salt or sugar.

Things to Avoid if You're Dehydrated

All of our experts agree that it's important for hydration to stay away from processed foods as they not only contain little water, they often contain elevated amounts of sodium (even sweet treats), which will hinder your hydrating efforts. The same goes for coffee. "Coffee acts as a diuretic and can dehydrate you," Sinatra says. "I tell my patients that for every cup of coffee you drink, you should follow it with a cup of water." Ditto for alcohol, which is also extremely dehydrating (hence tomorrow's headache, sluggishness, and dull complexion).

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  1. Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanicsClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:413-421. Published 2015 Aug 3. doi:10.2147/CCID.S86822

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