How much water should you drink?
Do you know how much water you should drink? We’re in the middle of a heatwave (or, y’know, summer) right now, and it’s vitally important that you keep hydrated when the weather is hot. Everyone knows that we should be drinking water, but it can be hard to know exactly how much water you should drink. The often-cited blanket rule of 8 glasses a day is pretty ambiguous, and if you’re a 300lb man your needs are going to be rather different from a 120lb woman. So why should you drink more water, and how much water should you be drinking?
How much water should you drink?
Ah, that’s the sixty-four million dollar question, isn’t it? It’s not an exact science and how much you need depends on a lot of factors: your weight, age, gender and whether or not you’ve been active that day to name just a few. This is why the NHS has a general recommendation of around 6-8 glasses of water a day, which is around 1.2 litres. However if you Google it, you may find the more common recommendation that we drink 8-10 glasses, or 8x8oz a day, which is closer to 2 litres a day. But the NHS is keen to point out that this is an American recommendation.
Drinking the NHS-recommended 6-8 glasses a day is a good rule of thumb and if you currently don’t drink any water at all, this is where you should begin.
What are the benefits of drinking more water?
Water makes up 60% of our bodies and it’s lost through sweating, peeing and even breathing, so it’s important to maintain this level to stay healthy. Drinking enough water can help with digestion, your blood circulation and can help prevent headaches. On a more superficial level, drinking enough water can help improve your skin too. Simply put, water is the key to helping your body function properly.
Will drinking more water help me lose weight?
Well, it’s not a magic potion – if you’re not sticking to your calorie goals, drinking a bit of water isn’t going to negate this. However, drinking enough water and staying hydrated is thought to help a little bit, although it’s not clear exactly how. Some people swear that drinking enough water will ‘flush everything out’, or that a glass of ice-cold water will kickstart your metabolism, but there’s no real research to back either of these claims.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism did find that drinking water increased metabolic rate by 30% for a maximum of 30 minutes, but it was a small sample with strict controls which can’t really be generalised to the wider population.
But if you’re used to drinking high-calorie soft drinks every day, switching to water will cut those calories which will help you lose weight. Another commonly-cited reason that water helps you lose weight is that drinking a lot of water will fill you up, so you may end up eating less. But again, this isn’t a magical property that water has – it’s simple calories in, calories out.
This doesn’t mean that it’s not worth drinking water if you want to lose weight, though.
Are there any drawbacks to drinking more water?
It’ll make you pee a lot, especially if you’re not used to drinking enough.
It is also possible to drink too much water, so it’s worth bearing in mind that you don’t need to suddenly start downing 10 litres a day. Water intoxication (also known as hyponatremia) is a real, dangerous thing where drinking too much too fast leads to an abnormally low concentration of sodium in the bloodstream. This can lead to damage to the kidneys, liver and can even be fatal. It’s rare, and you’d have to drink an absolutely huge volume of water, but it’s worth being aware of.
How do I know if I’m drinking enough?
A good indication of whether you’re adequately hydrated is the colour of your pee. Yes, really. Take a look and see how you’re doing – if it’s dark, you need to drink more. If it’s pale or almost clear, you’re doing ok. The other symptoms of dehydration are feeling thirsty (duh), strong-smelling pee, feeling dizzy, a dry mouth and not peeing much. You’re more likely to get dehydrated quicker if you’ve got diabetes, if it’s a hot day or if you’ve sweated a lot after exercise.
There are many water intake calculators on the web which might give you a better idea of how much you should be aiming for. One of the better ones is bottle-makers Camelbak’s hydration calculator, which gives you a total based on your age and weight and takes into account activity too.
But I don’t like water!
Does anyone?! For all of its health benefits, it’s no wonder that 20% of men don’t drink any water in a day and a staggering 89% of Britons don’t drink enough water at all, according to the National Hydration Council. Because it’s boring, right? Unfortunately, if you’re not a fan you’ll just have to suck it up.
We’re lucky in the UK to have high-quality tap water, but if you think what comes out of your tap tastes gross, you could try getting a water filter. BRITA are the go-to jug filter kings here and you can either get a fridge jug with a filter or you can get a water bottle with a little filter in so you can fill and go. The downside of this is that the filters are pretty expensive.
Alternatively, you could get a fancy water bottle like this one with a built-in fruit-infuser, so you could chuck a few strawberries or lemon slices in there to help add a little flavour to your water. And if you’re really struggling to keep hydrated because you don’t like water, add a bit of no-added-sugar squash – 250ml of water with this Tesco no-added-sugar orange squash is only 4 calories and although not everyone would agree, in our opinion it’s better to drink squash than to not drink any water at all. Just treat yourself like a toddler and make it weak.
So how much water should I drink, then?
Start with the NHS-recommended 6-8 glasses a day and see how you get on. If you’re exercising or it’s a particularly hot day, drink a few extra glasses. If your pee is still dark, you’ll know that you need to drink more, but if it’s light you’ll know that you’re on the right track. Keep a reusable water bottle with you and drink from it throughout the day. And above all, if you’re thirsty, drink!
- Water, drinks and your health – NHS Choices
- Six to eight glasses of water a day ‘still best’ – NHS Choices
- Snopes fact check: Do we really need to drink eight glasses of water a day?
- Water, hydration and health – research by Barry M. Popkin, Kristen E. D’Anci and Irwin H. Rosenberg from the journal Nutrition Review
- The science behind hydration – BBC Two Gastro Lab