How to Drink More Water

Written by: Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN

All life relies on water, and humans are no exception. Approximately 60% of body mass is water. That’s about 42 liters of water both inside cells and as body fluids. 

Optimizing hydration and fluid balance is essential for feeling well and maintaining health. Even a slight loss of water can lead to symptoms and impact how the whole system functions. Yet, most people don’t drink enough water and are in a chronic state of mild dehydration. 

But how much water do you need? And how do you know if you’re hydrated? We’ll answer these questions in today’s article. Keep reading to learn more about: 

  • The importance of water and hydration 
  • How to tell if you’re hydrated
  • How much water to drink
  • Helpful tips for increasing water intake

While hydration seems basic and straightforward, it can make a huge difference in how you feel. Let’s jump into this essential topic!

Importance of Hydration 
It’s hard to measure how much water you have in your body, but it accounts for an average of 60% of body mass. You require water for:

  • Biochemical reactions
  • Nutrient delivery
  • Detoxification
  • Metabolism
  • Temperature regulation
  • Protection
  • Physical movement and performance
  • Digestion 
  • Immunity 
  • Skin health 
  • Longevity 
  • Brain health and function
  • Overall homeostasis (balance) 

Research shows that even a 2% loss in water (mild dehydration) is a stressor on the body and impairs brain health. It affects attention, memory, motor skills, and cognitive performance. Mild dehydration can also trigger headaches and migraines, and pain levels can increase in a dehydrated state. 

You may notice other symptoms related to dehydration, too, such as:

  • Constipation 
  • Poor recovery from exercise
  • Poor recovery from illness
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry mouth 
  • Fatigue

When dehydration becomes more severe, so do the symptoms: nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, and eventually hallucinations, coma, or death. 

How to Know if You’re Hydrated (or Not)
Our hydration status depends on the balance between the water we take in through food and beverages and the water we lose via breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom. You’ll get dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water or lose more water than you replace. 

When the body senses dehydration (as concentrated fluids and a lower blood volume), it triggers thirst, so you know to replenish water. The kidneys also work to conserve water, and the urine becomes more concentrated. 

Both young children and older adults are more prone to dehydration. As we age, the thirst sensation weakens, and body fluids decrease. Exercise can also disrupt fluid balance; people who exercise a lot and athletes need to pay extra attention to hydration. 

If you are well-hydrated, you should notice the following: 

  • Good energy and brain function 
  • Good skin turgor (elasticity) – when you pinch the skin on your hand or forearm, it returns to its original position quickly
  • Urine that is clear (or only slightly yellow) and copious, with the need to urinate every 2 to 3 hours during the day
  • Absence of thirst – thirst occurs when your body is already slightly dehydrated 

How Much Water to Drink 
The truth is, we don’t know the exact amount of water to recommend to someone. Your water needs depend on your activity level, environment, health status, and other factors. One recommendation won’t work for everyone, but we have some helpful starting points. 

The standard recommendation of 8 glasses (64 fluid ounces) per day is somewhat arbitrary but still a good daily goal to start with. 

The Institute of Medicine recommends an adequate intake of 90 fluid ounces (2.7 liters) per day for women and 120 fluid ounces (3.7 liters) for men. These recommendations also account for the water you get from food, which averages about 20% of daily water consumption. 

Still, most people aren’t meeting these goals. The Centers for Disease Control estimates the average adult only drinks 36 to 51 ounces of water per day. So, there’s room for improvement. 

Here are some ideas for determining your water needs:

  • Start with 64 ounces per day as a goal (or up to 120 ounces) 
  • Make sure you are drinking enough to stay ahead of thirst
  • If you are losing water from exercise, sweating, or living in a hot climate, replace water on top of your daily needs (along with electrolytes)
  • Pay attention to the frequency of urination and the color of urine 

Although it’s less common than dehydration, you also want to avoid overhydration. Drinking too much water can dilute electrolytes, impacting homeostasis and health. More water is only better up to a point; it’s about listening to your body and optimizing water intake so you feel and perform your best.

Tips For Drinking More Water
Many people need to drink more water but struggle with consistently getting enough. Here are some ideas to make drinking water easy and fun, but the tips require dedication as you build new habits and make them stick. 

  1. Drink water first thing in the morning – When you wake up, drink two glasses of water. This habit helps replace the water you lost overnight and start your day off on a hydrating foot. If your goal is 8 glasses, you’ve already checked 25% off the list. 
  2. Choose water as your primary beverage – replace soda, juice, and other sugary drinks with water to improve hydration and other aspects of health. 
  3. Don’t worry; you can make water enjoyable – If plain water doesn’t appeal to you, try these ideas that count as water intake:

    -Sparkling water 
    -Herbal tea (hot or iced)
    -Mineral broth 
    -Water with a few frozen berries
    -Water with lemon or lime
    -Water with fresh mint or lemon balm 
    -Water with added electrolytes 
    -Water with added greens

  4. Filter your drinking water – Filtering your drinking water makes it taste better and reduces exposure to harmful water pollution. Check the tap water quality in your area and discover the best type of filtration system here
  5. Set a goal and track it – Determine how much water you’re currently drinking and set a realistic goal. Then, track how much you drink by counting empty glasses or water bottles throughout the day. When you meet your goal, assess how you feel and if you need to adjust moving forward. 
  6. Carry a reusable water bottle – Take it wherever you go. You can sip throughout the day or set a goal to finish your bottle by a specific time and refill. 
  7. Give yourself reminders – If you have trouble remembering to drink water, add a reminder or alarm on your phone. You can also stack the habit of drinking water with other things you do during the day. For example, drink a glass of water after each trip to the bathroom, before each meal, or after each work meeting.  
  8. Plan extra hydration around exercise – Begin exercise sessions with good hydration status and drink water during and after exercise to bring hydration back to baseline. Be sure to replace lost electrolytes with Twenty2 Nutrition Electrolytes or Stimulant-Free Electrolytes

Hydration is foundational for health, yet it’s easy to overlook in our busy lives. Adding just a little more water to your day can significantly improve how you feel and perform. And it’s not as challenging as you think. Start with one or two of these tips and expand from there. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can reach your water goals, and with consistent practice, good hydration will become another automatic health habit. 

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider before changing your diet or beginning a new supplement, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, take medication, or have a medical condition. 

Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian, functional nutritionist, writer, and recipe creator. Ryah helps clients use a natural, food-as-medicine approach to improve fertility, pregnancy, hormone balance, autoimmunity, and discover a healthy relationship with food and body. Learn more about Ryah and her private practice at