Drinking more water is a fast, easy, and mostly free way to stay healthy and fit. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get as much as we need, and we may not even know it. Not being properly hydrated can negatively affect our concentration, memory, digestion, and kidney function. It may also increase our risk of developing some chronic illnesses.
Water makes up about 60% of the body and is vital for all body functions. Each cell and organ rely on water for everything from metabolism, shock absorption, lubrication to flushing out toxins and waste. And while you may be able to go weeks or even months without food, lack of hydration begins to cause problems within hours. You can’t live without water.
So how do you know if you need to drink more water during the day?
Five easy ways to tell if it’s time to drink more water.
The color of your urine is one of the simplest ways to know how your H2O intake is measuring up. Urine is essentially a mix of waste products and water filtered from the blood. Your urine can tell you a lot about the health of your body, but one of its most important day-to-day uses is as a marker of hydration.
When you are well hydrated, your urine will be lighter in color because the yellow pigments that are naturally excreted in urine will be diluted. Conversely, if you don’t have enough excess water for your kidneys to filter, your urine will be more concentrated and darker in color.
The next time you go to the bathroom, take a glance at the color of your urine.
- Pale straw yellow – You’re well-hydrated; keep it up!
- Dark yellow – It’s time to hydrate. Down a glass of water and up your overall intake.
- Amber or honey-colored – You’re likely dehydrated. Drink water right away.
Dry Skin and Lips
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, acting as a barrier to protect your tissues and organs. With all the abuse it takes, healthy skin requires a lot of H2O. And, if you are low on water, your skin will eventually feel the effects. The appearance of your skin can indicate whether you are getting enough to drink or skirting on the edge of dehydration.
If you notice your skin is dry, flaky, or peeling, that could be a sign your daily water intake is too low. A 2015 study showed that drinking more water can positively affect skin health and hydration, especially in people who tend to be chronically dehydrated.
Your lips are another area that is a sensitive indicator of your fluid status. Dry, chapped lips are not only uncomfortable but can also be a sign you need more water.
Hydration comes from the inside out. As you increase your fluid intake, your skin and lips will look better than ever.
Even mild dehydration can impact how you feel, and developing a headache is one potential side effect. A study in The Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, poor mood, and difficulty concentrating.
The brain relies on a specific fluid and electrolyte balance to function optimally. If you’re not drinking the water you need, it’s reasonable to expect your brain isn’t going to feel its best. And when your brain isn’t happy, the effects can be pretty obvious.
If you find yourself developing a mild headache, boosting your hydration can be a good first step. And, for people who are regularly prone to headaches or migraines, adequate hydration is especially important.
The more water you drink, the better your brain will feel.
Surprisingly, feeling hungry can also be a sign that your body needs more water. We usually associate thirst as the signal to get a drink, but hunger could be trying to tell us the same thing. And it’s all too easy to mix those signals up.
Interestingly, a study in The Annals of Family Medicine found that people who are overweight are more likely to be low on fluids. While it’s difficult to prove cause and effect, one possible explanation could be confusion between thirst and hunger. This crossing of signals could lead some people to reach for a snack when what they really need is a glass of water.
The next time you are feeling hungry outside of mealtime, pause to evaluate whether a snack is really what you want. Often a good first step is to drink more water and wait 10 to 15 minutes to see how you feel. If hydrating dulls your hunger, then problem solved.
Staying well-hydrated can prevent overeating and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Consuming too little water can make you feel fatigued and sluggish, even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Again, all it takes is mild dehydration to cause your brain to feel slow, your body tired, and your mood irritable. If you’ve ever exercised in the heat, you probably know what this feels like. When you sweat and become dehydrated, every part of you begins to feel like it’s moving in slow-motion.
This same effect can happen, though perhaps on a smaller scale if you drink insufficient water throughout the day. Your body and mind won’t be able to operate at peak capacity.
Get in the habit of reaching for a glass of water when you feel fatigued. As you boost your hydration, you may find you boost your energy levels as well.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Your daily water intake should be half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you need to drink 90 ounces of water. That comes out to about 11 cups or just a bit less than 3 liters each day.
To calculate your water needs, use these simple formulas:
Your body weight ➗ 2 = Recommended ounces
Your recommended ounces ➗ 8 = Cups of water each day
Simple Tips to Drink More Water
- Use a 1-liter reusable water bottle to track your intake.
- Use the ShiftSetGo app to easily track your water intake throughout the day.
- Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to drink regularly.
- Add ice to your water to keep it cool, as this can help you drink more.
- Add a squirt of lemon or lime to your water for a bit of flavor.
- Instead of sipping on water, train yourself to take longer drinks. A sip might dull your thirst without fully hydrating you.
- Drink through a straw as this encourages more intake.
- Every time you finish a cup of coffee or tea, drink a full cup of water.
- Make drinking a full cup of water one of the first things you do when you wake up every morning.
More Water, Better Health
Staying well-hydrated can help you feel strong, energetic, and ready for anything. In addition, drinking more water is a natural way to prevent overeating and may even help you lose weight. Get in the habit of monitoring your hydration status, and put strategies in place to make sure you get the water you need. Drinking more water could be just what you need for better health.