How much Water should you drink?

How much water should you drink a day? How much water should a child drink? How much water should I drink while pregnant? When it comes to recommended water intake, people have a lot of questions about water and health.

water through life stages

There isn’t one universal answer to these questions. While everyone agrees that water is essential to good health, "How much?" can be difficult to get consensus on. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for example, do not establish a recommended amount for daily water consumption, but do recommend that water be consumed daily. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Medicine has established recommended intakes for water that are based on median intakes of generally healthy individuals who are adequately hydrated. These targets — the "Adequate Intake" levels — set goals for daily fluid intake at roughly 2.7 liters (91 oz.) for women and 3.7 liters (125 oz.) for men (inclusive of total water from all foods and beverages). But all experts agree that variations in metabolism, activity level, and environment make setting firm water intake recommendations impossible for the general population.

It’s important to realize that everyone’s needs are different, and there are certain times where increased water intake — or closer monitoring of intake — may be necessary. Keep these circumstances in mind when figuring out how much water to drink:

  • Exercise: Remember to start activities fully hydrated, replenish as you go, and drink plenty of water upon completion. Be particularly vigilant about replacing lost fluids when exercising in warm or humid conditions.
  • Pregnancy: Hydration needs may also evolve during pregnancy. Water carries nutrients to and cushions the baby in amniotic fluid, and aids in breast milk production. 
  • Age: There is greater risk of dehydration in elderly adults and infants and young children. Additionally, these populations may be less aware of their thirst, so it’s important to pay attention to how much water is being consumed.

But no matter what life stage you’re in, there’s no question that drinking enough water is important. Water is an essential nutrient — we need it to transport oxygen and nutrition, carry waste away, and maintain balance in our regulatory systems.