Our bodies are made up of 60 percent water, per the United States Geological Survey, and it’s involved in every single bodily function. Water helps improve oxygen delivery to the cells, lubricates our joints, regulates our body temperature, helps remove waste and toxins from the body, improves digestion, and more, according to functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P. With all of this life-dependent involvement, it’s no surprise that it’s important to make sure we’re getting our fair share each day.
While the recommended amount of water varies based on the individual’s gender, weight and activity level, the general average is about 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups per women, according to the The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which is quite a lot of water! For most people, it can be a struggle to ensure they’re getting this much.
But is it possible to overdo it on water and drink too much? You might be surprised to learn that, yes, it is possible to drink too much water, however, it’s very unlikely. Your kidneys, which are tasked with the all-important job of getting rid of excess water, cannot properly function if they’re infiltrated with too much water, which causes your sodium levels to become diluted, explains Rodgers. “If you are someone that has kidney disease or congestive heart failure, limiting your amount of water intake might be important because your body is not able to process it the way it needs to,” she says. “This is another important reason as to why your water needs to have enough sodium and electrolytes for it to be better absorbed—it will help to offset the dilution of sodium in the body.”
Don’t worry about your water intake creeping up on you. If you were drinking too much water, you would start to experience symptoms, including nausea and headaches to start out. “Severe overhydration can cause seizures, mental status changes, muscle cramps and fainting,” adds Rodgers.
The amount of water that someone needs is totally dependent on their own unique factors, sometimes, making it really difficult to accurately pinpoint exactly how much someone needs. A person’s needs can change depending on their physical activity level, age, chronic conditions such as diabetes, elevation you live in, urine color, thirst, your diet quality, pregnancy, etc.
The best thing you can do when it comes to hydrating is to listen to and observe your body. “Thirst is a good indicator and when you start to feel a dry mouth feeling it’s time to sip some water,” says Marvin Nixon, M.S., N.B.C.-H.W.C., health, and wellness coach, certified nutrition consultant and personal trainer. Another way he recommends determining your hydration level is to observe the color of your urine, which should be somewhere between clear and light yellow. “Once the color of your urine is becoming anything darker than light yellow then it is time to grab some H2O,” he says
If you’re looking to up your levels of hydration without overdoing it, follow these expert-approved tips.
Make sure your water is filtered
“Tap water and even some well waters can be high in contaminants and other chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride,” warns Rodgers. “If you start to increase the intake of water but are drinking unfiltered water that is filled with other health-compromising components, you may not be doing as much good as you think.” She recommends purchasing a high-quality countertop filter or a filtration system for your home.
Don’t wait until you are “thirsty” to drink
If you’re feeling thirsty, consider it an early warning sign that dehydration is on its way. “Drink water throughout the day and keep yourself hydrated before you get really thirsty,” says Rodgers. “Also, if you start to feel tired, have a headache, have difficulty concentrating, and feel anxious, these are tell-tale signs that you may need hydration.”
Add in electrolytes and trace minerals
Because water depends on electrolytes for proper absorption, your body may not be able to actually absorb water without enough of it, warns Rodgers. For this reason, she recommends adding an electrolyte pack, trace mineral drops or lemon juice and sea salt to your water.
Time out your water intake around workouts
It’s important to stay properly hydrated always, but especially when you’re working out because your body is losing water through the sweating process. For optimal hydration, Rodgers recommends hydrating both before and after your workouts, but limiting the amount during your workout. “This will keep your body detoxing out, but also staying hydrated,” he says. She also also suggests sprinkling a bit of sea salt into your water bottle to replenish your sodium levels after a heavy sweating session.