When Do You Need to Drink More Water?

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Patricia Burch

Your body contains more water than anything else; about 60 percent of your total body weight. Water helps regulate your body temperature, transports nutrients, and helps remove waste. Every day you lose water when you breathe, sweat, urinate, and defecate, and that water needs to be replenished. So how much water do you need to drink each day? Although that’s a simple question, it doesn’t have an easy answer. It depends on some environmental and physical factors that can change every day. Also, it’s not just the water you drink- about 20 percent of your water intake comes from other foods you eat. The remaining 80 percent comes from beverages, including water, coffee, tea, and anything liquid.

The following information comes from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy.

  • Men: 13 cups about 10.5 cups from beverages
  • Women: 9 cups about 8 cups from beverages
  • Pregnant women: 10 cups about 8 cups from beverages
  • Breastfeeding women: 13 cups 10.5 cups from beverages

How do you know if you are drinking enough water? Most people can gauge their water intake by looking at urine color. If you’re getting enough water, your urine will be pale yellow, and you’ll urinate several times a day. Urine color doesn’t work for everyone. Taking dietary supplements that contain riboflavin will make your urine bright yellow, and certain medications can change the color of your urine, as well. If you have kidney problems or other health conditions, you should talk to your health care provider about how much water to drink.

Thirst is the desire to drink something. It can be triggered by the loss of fluid volume in and around cells and in the blood. Thirst is your body’s way of saying you need water to avoid dehydration. Thirst has a behavioral component as well and can be triggered by aromas and flavors, so just thinking about your favorite beverage can make you thirsty. It’s also important to note that older people often have problems with their thirst mechanism and may not feel thirsty even when they’re dehydrated.

If you have bad breath and dry mouth, drinking more water throughout the day may help. Eating onions or garlic, a lack of normal saliva production, even mild dehydration can cause bad breath. Drinking more water throughout the day may help. Keep a glass of water by your bedside for nighttime relief. Water is essential for brain function.

Increased activity like exercise or physical labor can increase the amount of fluid lost when you sweat. It’s best to drink two or three cups of water before your activity begins and drink about one cup of water every 15 minutes or so while you’re active. You might even need more if you’re working or exercising in extreme temperatures.

Drink extra fluids while you have diarrhea, and after, to remain hydrated. Diarrhea can be caused by several reasons, including infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disorders.

If you need additional information on when you need to drink more water, contact Lethia Lee at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Sampson County office at 910-592-7161 or Lethia_lee@ncsu.edu.