Everything You Need to Know About Water and Fluid Intake

As a Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM), fluid intake is one of the first habits I work on with clients.  Water is critical for our health, and most people are not getting enough!  In this blog post, we will cover everything you need to know about hydration and give you some tips to help make sure you’re drinking enough water for optimal health. 

What Counts as Water/Fluids?

My clients are usually surprised to learn that most beverages count towards your servings of water!  (Yes, that includes soda, coffee, tea, milk, and juice!)  The exception is alcoholic beverages: anything that is 4% or more alcoholic does NOT count towards your fluid intake.

With that being said, I gently suggest that people stick with calorie-free beverages such as water, coffee, tea, and seltzer.  Milk and dairy-free milk alternatives are also excellent sources of fluids.  Even though they have calories, they can be highly nutritious and beneficial for your overall health.

What about juice, regular soda, or sports drinks?  I encourage you to limit these sources for your fluid intake, especially if you are weight-conscious.  They are packed with sugar and calories.  However, they still count towards your fluid intake!


What Are the Benefits of Drinking Enough Fluids?

There is a growing body of evidence that adequate hydration plays a very important part in maintaining proper health.  The following benefits are based off of numerous research studies (Sources: 1, 2, 3):

  • Helps keep you from overheating
  • Facilitates waste and toxin removal via perspiration, urination, and bowel movements
  • Lubricates joints and tissues
  • Supports learning, remembering, and problem solving
  • Supports mood stability
  • Helps prevent kidney stones
  • Supports weight loss and weight management (more on this later)
  • Helps keep skin hydrated and helps prevent dry, itchy skin

How Many Fluids Should I Drink Each Day?

Hehe, this question makes me laugh only because there are SO many opinions on this matter!  Below, I will outline some of the most common strategies, the pros and cons of each, and indicate which one is my favorite.  If you want to get a more accurate strategy for your unique body and health conditions, consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

1. Drink 1/2 to 1 ounce of fluids per pound of bodyweight. (This is my fave!)

  • PRO: I love this one because we are all different sizes, so why should we have a one size fits all approach? This helps you customize your fluid intake for YOUR body, not somebody else’s.
  • CON: For individuals with a higher bodyweight, this goal might feel impossible to reach.
  • Example: Georgia weighs 200 lbs.  Using this method, she would aim to drink 100-200 ounces of fluids per day (roughly 12-25 cups per day)


2. Drink 64 ounces of water per day.

  • PRO: This was one of the original, most traditional suggestions, so it’s worth mentioning.  It’s a reasonable goal to work towards for people who are new to this habit.
  • CON: The big downside is that it might not be enough for many people to be adequately hydrated.
  • Remember: 8 ounces = 1 cup (so 64 ounces = 8 cups)


3. Use your body’s cues for hydration.

  • How does it work? Basically, you drink when you are thirsty and use the color of your urine to determine if you are getting enough fluids (check the section of Dehydration below for a chart of urine color to help you).
  • PRO: This is great for people who really just do not want to track how many fluids they are drinking each day.  It’s also a good option for people who are very intuitive and in-tune with their bodies. 
  • CON: Many people are simply unaware of their body’s cues and/or don’t pay attention to whether they are thirsty or not.  It also takes some time to remember to check urine for color. 



How Do I Know if I’m Dehydrated?

One of the most effective ways to tell if you are getting enough water is to check the color of your urine.  Use the chart below to help you determine if you are getting enough water.

Some other signs you may be dehydrated include the following.  Please note that these signs could also be indicative of an underlying health condition.  Consult with your doctor if you display these symptoms.  

  • Your skin is really dry (pay attention to lips, feet, and hands)
  • Increased fatigue and tiredness
  • Increased negative emotions such as anger, depression, confusion, and tension
  • Frequent headaches (data is limited in this but people often report headaches when they are dehydrated)

How Can Water Help Me with Weight Loss?

This is an area of science that is still being explored, but a review of several scientific studies suggest how adequate fluid intake can support weight loss and weight maintenance:

  • Increasing water consumption may result in body fat and/or weight loss in obese individuals, without changing how many calories they consume (1)
  • Replacing calorie-filled drinks with calorie-free drinks consistently results in consuming less calories over time (1)
  • One promising study showed that drinking 2 glasses of water 30 minutes before each meal resulted in individuals losing 44% more weight (approx 4 1/2 lbs) over 12 weeks than the people who did not drink water before their meals (3)

We will incorporate this information into the tips section below. 



10 Tips for Drinking More Water

1. Keep track of how many cups (8 ounces) of fluids you are drinking each day.  People often underestimate how many fluids they consume each day.  Tallying how many ounces you drink each day is crucial for taking actionable steps.  Start by just recording how many you drink each day for a normal week to get your baseline.

2. Make small goals.  Once you know your baseline fluids intake, make small, achievable goals.  For example, if you drink 5 cups of fluids as your baseline, try to drink 5 1/2 or 6 cups the next week.

3. Drink 8-16 ounces (1-2 cups) of water every morning.  This can help wake up your body, facilitating processes such as waste removal.  It also gets you started on the right foot for the day!  If you are a coffee or tea drinker, try drinking a glass of water first.

4. When you feel hungry, drink a few ounces of water first.  Sometimes our minds interpret thirst cues as hunger cues.  If you are still hungry after drinking some water, go ahead and eat something.

5. Drink 1 glass of water 30 minutes before meals.  This helps you ensure that you are drinking more water throughout the day.  The bonus is that it can help you lose or maintain weight, as we discussed before!

6. Add a yummy herbal tea to your nighttime routine.  This has two main benefits: it helps you get more fluids AND it helps curb nighttime snacking.  As a lover of nighttime snacks, I can personally attest!  If you have to go to the bathroom a lot at night, try to drink the tea an hour before bedtime. And make sure to brush your teeth before bed – dark liquids can stain!

7. Try adding lemon, cucumber, or another fruit or vegetable to your water.  This can help water taste better and make it more motivating to drink!

8. Get a water bottle that measures ounces of water (and bring it with you when you leave your home).  This makes it super easy to keep track of how many ounces you are drinking.  Also, carrying that water bottle with you will help ensure you can drink a few sips here and there when you are out and about!

9. Replace calorie-filled beverages with calorie-free beverages.  This can be a hard shift to make, so go slowly.  If you drink 5 Cokes a day, try swapping out one of those for a glass of water or a cup of tea (or even Diet Coke).  Continue until you have eliminated regular soda from your diet.

10. Work with your schedule.  If you are like me and have a small bladder, try to drink plenty of fluids when you are home and have ample time to pee.  If I’m going to be without a bathroom for awhile, I try to steer clear of too many fluids within an hour of that time.

I hope that you found this blog to be educational and genuinely helpful!  If you are interested in working with me or have any questions, please check out my At-home Programs that you can do on your own schedule or contact me here

Enjoy the journey, friends!

=) Mary