It’s impossible to read about healthy lifestyles without hearing the exhortation to drink more water. We’re made up of at least 60 percent water: in a 155-pound person, that’s 11 gallons or 92 pounds. Water fuels a number of our biological processes, from producing sweat to fueling our organs. Water helps us process waste, circulate oxygen and even makes it possible to cry—but the benefits don’t end there.
Are you getting enough water?
How much water should you drink? According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “an adequate daily fluid intake is: about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men, [and] about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.” This doesn’t count the water you get from eating foods, which makes up about 20 percent of a person’s daily fluid intake.
That’s just a general rule of thumb, however. You might need more or less water depending on your environment, exercise level, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and your overall health. For example, if you’re suffering through a bout of food poisoning, you’ll need more water to replace the fluids you’ve lost. Other fluids, like coffee, tea, soda and sports drinks count toward your fluid intake, but beware of excessive sugar and caffeine. They can be dehydrating.
You’ll know if you’re drinking enough water when you rarely feel thirsty, and your urine is near-colorless. While there’s very little risk of drinking too much water, you might want to talk to a doctor about how much fluid intake is right for you.
Drink water and reap these rewards
What happens when you finally reach the pinnacle of water consumption? Like most health goals, the sky doesn’t open up to rain confetti down upon you, and there’s no Pinnacle of Adulthood trophy. But you will win the following prizes:
- Better skin elasticity. If you’re not quite ready to look your age, let alone act like it, drinking lots of water is key. It helps improve your skin’s elasticity so that you can reduce those wrinkles and look younger, longer.
- Good brain health. Some experts think that water will keep your brain functioning properly—when you’re dehydrated, they believe it reduces oxygen flow to your brain and may even shrink your neurons.
- Better breath. Got bad breath? If you drink enough water, your lips, mouth and throat will stay moist, which keeps your breath smelling fresh. Dry mouth creates bad tastes and can even encourage cavity formation.
- Flushes your kidneys and urinary tract. Your kidneys use water to filter out toxins and send it out through your urinary tract. If you become dehydrated, you’re subject to kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Drinking water is the key to keeping everything flowing—pun intended.
- Better heart function. When you’re dehydrated, your blood volume is reduced. That means that your heart has to work extra hard to pump blood and ensure your cells receive enough oxygen. In turn, it’s harder to exert yourself—even simple things like walking up the stairs.
- Stay cooler during exercise. One of the ways your body releases excess heat is by allowing blood vessels near the surface of your skin to expand. This allows the heat to dissipate in the air and increases blood flow. If you’re dehydrated, your blood vessels won’t be able to expand properly.
- Increase your metabolism and lose weight faster. It’s true: drinking more water can help you shed those stubborn last few pounds, or kickstart your weight loss program. Don’t worry if you retain water in the first few days: by day three or four your body should get used to the fluid intake and balance out. It’ll also ensure that you don’t feel as hungry between meals.
- Boosts your immune system. The more water you drink, the easier your body is able to flush out toxins through your kidneys and sweat glands. That means that your immune system can focus on getting rid of bacteria and viruses before they make you sick.
- Good joint function. Finally, drinking enough water will help lubricate your joints—so if you’re starting to feel like Father Time when you hit the treadmill, increase your water intake for some instant youth.
As you can see, drinking plenty of water has plenty of benefits. There is, of course, one downside to increased fluid intake—you’ll always need to know exactly where to find the closest bathroom.