By now, everyone should be familiar with the idea that water is a healthy beverage choice. Gone are the days when sugary fruit juices, whole milk, or diet sodas are pushed by “health gurus” in lieu of water. In the US, we are fortunate to have almost unlimited access to free and clean drinking water with rare exceptions. Yet, it is still difficult for most of us to achieve the recommended daily intake.
Some individuals fail to drink more water simply because they do not like the taste, while others find it a bit easier to stay hydrated because, to them, nothing tastes better! Even among those that enjoy drinking water, questions come up, such as whether tap water is healthy, what kind of water is best, how much water should you drink in a day, and how much water is too much. In this article, we will discuss a few of these common questions about drinking water and provide some practical tips that make it more palatable, easy, and fun to boost your water intake.
Is the Same Amount of Water Right for Everyone?
You may have heard the advice that drinking eight glasses of water a day is the key to staying hydrated. If this works for you, it is a reasonable target that will help you get the job done, at least as a baseline. However, eight glasses per day is very subjective. How big is your glass or water bottle? What other fluids are you taking in? In addition, this piece of advice does not consider your individual water needs.
In fact, the same amount of water is not right for everyone. The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends about 15.5 8 oz. cups of fluid daily for an adult male and about 11.5 8 oz. cups of fluid for an adult female. By that metric, a woman with a standard 24 oz. water bottle may get close to optimal intake by drinking 3-4 refills from that bottle per day, and a man would need a bit more due to probable differences in size and muscle mass.
However, water intake needs vary for reasons other than gender and size. For example, someone who takes in a lot of fluid from food may need to drink less, while someone who does cardio workouts daily depletes more water and electrolytes and needs to drink more. Water intake is not one-size-fits-all, and some individuals need less or more water for a wide variety of reasons.
How Much Water Is Too Much?
So, is more always better? Not necessarily. Water is generally a safe substance to consume, and it would take an exorbitant amount of water to harm the body—likely more than anyone would feel comfortable drinking. However, the body can only absorb about 27 to 34 oz. of water per hour at most, even accounting for exertion and perspiration.
Therefore, drinking more than 34 oz. per hour is useless. If you drink much more than this, you run the risk of a rare-but-serious condition called water intoxication. Water intoxication is a severe disruption to the body’s electrolytes and is potentially fatal. The bottom line: most people can and should drink more water than they regularly do, but more is not always better.
Does Coffee Count as Water Intake?
Coffee drinkers around the world have pondered the question for years—does coffee count as water intake? The short answer is no. However, coffee does count as fluid intake, especially decaffeinated coffee. However, due to its caffeine content, coffee is not as hydrating as other beverages—and is definitely less hydrating than water itself.
While you cannot count other beverages as water intake, you can count them as fluid intake if they have a hydrating effect on the body. The other ingredients in the beverage determine whether the beverage is effective in helping you reach your daily hydration goal. For example, coconut water contains sugar, but it is also primarily water and electrolytes. As a result, you may drink it on a one-for-one basis with plain water. Unsweetened cranberry juice or decaf black or green tea are also primarily water-based and can be hydrating while supplying other nutritional benefits.
However, coffee, alcohol, and sodas with caffeine or copious amounts of artificial sweeteners are not hydrating and can actually be dehydrating. Therefore, if you like to start the day with coffee and end it with a glass of wine, try to drink an 8oz. glass of water with each of those beverages to stay hydrated and reduce the negative effects of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances. In general, if you are drinking an all-natural drink with no caffeine and limited additives, it counts toward your daily fluid goal. Continue drinking water alongside other beverages, especially if you feel even a little thirsty.
10 Simple Ways to Drink More Water
Now that you have received answers to a few common questions about water intake and hydration, it’s important to do what you can to drink more water throughout your day. It’s an area in which most people can use a little help, and we’ve compiled a few tips to help you get started.
Set Associations and Habits
Habit-forming is a powerful tool. New routines can be established with as little as one month of diligence. You might consider starting by downing an 8oz. glass of water with a morning and/or evening medication or vitamin regimen. At the workplace, you could drink a glass from the water cooler each time you walk back to your desk from the restroom. After a few weeks of thinking hard about these strategies, they will become second nature.
Some people just don’t like the taste of water, and that’s perfectly fine. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of products on the market to alter the taste of water, many of them contain complicated (or even harmful) ingredients. However, lemon, lime, or orange wedges can also completely transform the taste of water and are all-natural, cheap, and low-calorie. Try out an infusion water bottle and experiment with other fruit combinations. This extra step can transform your enjoyment of water.
As mentioned earlier, drinking other beverages on a one-for-one basis with water is a great strategy with many perks. When you order a coffee, ask for water, too. When you order a diet soda at lunch, ask for water, too. When you have an alcohol-based beverage, drink a glass of water before ordering another. This easy change reduces headaches and slumps, is an easy way to boost your water intake, and is typically free of charge.
Get a Water Bottle You Love
We love this Equa Squeeze Glass Bottle. A practical design easy to hold in your hands and a fresh look that will help you improve your well-being. Also, it comes in a number of colors and sizes so you can pick one that suits your personal style.
Use a Straw
This is an easy change but an effective one, as people typically drink faster when using a straw. Restaurants and bars know this, which is one reason they offer straws with beverages. Adding a straw can help you drink water more rapidly without really noticing you’ve increased your intake. If you have environmental concerns about straws, only use them at establishments that use paper straws or carry your own reusable silicone or glass straw that you love.
Slightly cool or room temperature water is often easier to drink than water with ice. As a result, you can drink more rapidly, upping your water intake in a way similar to the straw tip listed above. Undoubtedly, you will sometimes want ice water on a hot summer day. When possible, though, drink your water without ice to consume it more efficiently.
Add Ice if You Love It
It may seem counterintuitive after suggesting you skip the ice, but sometimes adding ice can also be helpful. When you are drinking non-water beverages, adding ice contributes to the water content of those beverages, especially if you like to chomp on ice after finishing the drink. You can even opt to make ice more fun by freezing cubes with citrus or mint. It looks as great as it tastes!
Spice it Up
If you enjoy spicy foods and order water with your meal, you are likely to boost your water intake while eating. Great flavors and extra hydration? That’s a winning combination.
Opt for Hot or Sparkling
Water doesn’t have to be run-of-the-mill. You might consider starting your day with warm lemon water or sipping on warm lemon water with a dash of honey on a cool restaurant patio. Of course, sparkling water is also hugely popular. It is not always considered a perfect replacement for regular still water, as it takes longer to drink and has carbonation and additives. However, it is still water with few other ingredients and preferable to sodas and fruit juices.
Don’t Forget Water-Filled Foods
Some foods are over 90% water. Delicious examples include lettuce, celery, watermelon, zucchini, and honeydew melon. Eat up!
Our smartphones are a powerful tool for getting in more water. You can keep it simple by setting a few alarms throughout the day to remind you to drink 8 oz. of water. There are also smartphone apps that are specifically designed to remind you to drink water, personalized with daily goals and fun sound effects. If you are old-school, just put a few sticky notes around the house reminding you to drink a glass.
Looking for More Health Tips?
We hope you enjoyed these practical and simple tips for drinking more water and put them to use in your everyday life. Be sure and subscribe to the Compounding Pharmacy of America’s informative and up-to-date blog for more health and wellness advice. From healthy eating to vitamins and supplements, COVID news, fertility, pet care, and more, our expert team cares about keeping you well informed.
Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.