Water BottlesWater does more than simply quench your thirst, and how much you need to drink depends on your weight, height, activity level, and climate. In other words, there is no easy answer.

A general rule of thumb, noted by the Mayo Clinic, is for women to drink about 9 cups of water per day and for men to drink about 13 cups. This applies if you are an average height and weight and happen to live in a temperate climate. If you’re bigger and it’s hotter, you probably need more water.

What happened to the age-old suggestion of 8 cups of water per day?

The 8 cups of water per day suggestion is still kicking around, although it may be a bit lower than you actually need. You also need to note that the 9 or 13 cups for women or men applies to all fluids, and not just water.

About 20% of your fluid intake comes from the foods you eat, with juicy fruits and vegetables topping the list of fluid-filled foods. Watermelon, celery, oranges, and tomatoes are prime fluid-filled food examples.

The remainder of your fluid intake can come from water, but it can also come from juice, milk, tea, soda, coffee, and whatever else you drink throughout the day. Not all fluids are equally as healthy for you, since they may contain caffeine or sugar and other additives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that sugar is often a major component in some juices, sports drinks, and non-diet sodas.

How do I know if I need to drink more water?

You may think being thirsty is a good sign your body is low on fluids, although thirst can indicate you’re already heading toward dehydration. Gauging how much water or other fluids you may need before thirst hits can be more beneficial for your overall health.

Another rule of thumb is to drink one glass of water with each meal, one in between each meal, and drink water before, after, and while you exercise. Upping your water or fluid intake is a good idea under a variety of circumstances.

If you’re engaging in heavy exercise or any activity that makes you perspire, you may want to drink extra water. The same holds true if you are in a humid and hot climate or otherwise in a place that leaves you dripping in sweat.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding could use extra water in their daily diet, as can anyone who is suffering from certain health conditions. These include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or other illnesses that make your body lose fluids.

Why do we need all this water?

Water, water is everywhere in your body, making up about 60% of your overall weight and a necessary component for a range of vital functions. Water is in every cell: it helps move nutrients through your body; flushes out vital organs; and keeps your nose, throat, and ear tissues moist.

Water helps your body regulate temperature and eliminate waste. It also cushions and lubricates your joints while it keeps sensitive tissues, such as your spinal cord, protected.

Dehydration can be a serious consequence of not getting enough water; one that can ultimately result in your body being unable to perform its normal lineup of functions. Less severe cases of dehydration can leave you fatigued and lacking energy.

Can I drink too much water?

Drinking too much water isn’t generally an issue most people face, although it is possible under certain conditions. Too much water streaming through your body can result in low sodium levels in the blood.

This occurs because your kidney can’t keep up with massive amounts of water, and the excess water dilutes your blood’s electrolyte content. Diluted electrolytes can show up as low sodium levels. Unless you’re a professional endurance athlete who chugs gallon after gallon of fluids, most folks don’t have to worry about drinking too much water or other fluids.

Any tips for drinking more water?

Making best friends with a water bottle can help you drink more fluids, especially if you take that best friend with you everywhere you go. If you want your friend to be crisp and cool, you can put your water bottle in the freezer overnight and let it thaw out throughout the day. Make sure your bottle is safe to put in the freezer, and be aware that a thawing bottle tends to sweat.

You can also opt for water over other beverages when you get the chance. Swap sodas for water when you’re dining out. Drink water with your home meals and snacks. If you simply find water too boring or bland, you can give it a little zest by squeezing a fresh lemon slice in it. This adds a bit of taste without adding unwanted calories or sugar.