Hydration is essential to our lives: it helps us perform better, boosts our energy levels, and supports overall health. But how do you know how much water to drink per day? While our basic requirements can be estimated, it is also important to consider activity, age, as well as environmental and health factors in looking at an individual’s hydration needs. Let’s explore some tips to keep your body well-hydrated.
The basic rule of thumb to estimate hydration requirements is to take your body weight in pounds and divide it by two; the result gives you the number of ounces of water you should be drinking each day. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, then you should be drinking 65 ounces of water per day. You can also use this simple calculator to determine an adult’s basic water requirements.
However, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you’re very active, you may have increased water needs. For certain medical conditions like kidney failure – then your fluid needs may be less. In these cases, it’s best to consult your practitioner or a nutritionist to determine the right amount of fluids. It is also important to consider other factors such as hot/dry environmental conditions, and the amount/type of activity/exercise.
Factors such as changes in older individuals’ body composition, kidney function, and hormonal regulation impact the body’s water homeostatic balance.1 While thirst is an indicator of the need for hydration, our thirst mechanism becomes less reliable as we age. It is known that the elderly are more susceptible to dehydration and poor outcomes are impacted by problems with the thirst mechanism. 2,3
Signs of dehydration are important to know so that you can take action to correct fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Heavy sweating, significant thirst, fever, hot/dry skin, cold/clammy skin, headache, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and nausea are among some of the signs. If you are not urinating normally, you may be dehydrated. Warning signs of heat-related illness can be found here.
How you hydrate is important. Too little water can increase the risk of heat stroke, seizures, and other life-threatening situations. Too much water at one time can dilute the electrolytes in our blood, decreasing blood sodium levels and the risk of life-threatening conditions. So paying attention to your body and how it responds to changes in hydration is key. In fact, individualized hydration planning has been used in athletes which can actually improve response to exercise and even improve athletic performance outcomes.4
Electrolyte replacement may also be important to stay hydrated. Electrolytes are essential minerals that help regulate fluid balance in our body and support proper muscle and nerve functioning. Overweight or obese individuals may have a higher need for fluid as well as electrolyte replacement, given that body mass index (BMI) correlates with sweating and that these individuals are more likely to develop fluid and chloride imbalances compared to healthy counterparts.5
Adding a pinch of salt to your water can help to replace sodium loss and some minerals from sweating. However, if you are losing significant water and salt through sweat, other minerals are important to take along with sodium, as they work together to balance the body’s water and electrolyte balance. Celtic sea salt or Himalayan sea salt may contain trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. However, they can add to fluid retention issues and increase blood pressure. Many electrolyte replacement drinks and supplements are also available, containing a broader variety of electrolytes, and vitamins.
Popular sports drinks such as Gatorade can provide electrolytes but they are also high in sugar and additives – so it’s best to look for healthier alternatives such as coconut water, homemade electrolyte replacements made with fresh fruits or vegetables, or reputable brands of electrolyte replacements that are low in sugar and additives.
There are reputable supplement companies that do provide powders, powder packets, tablets, liquids, and other forms of replacement. The key is to look at the main ingredients, other ingredients, as well as what the product does not contain. For example, many replacements contain magnesium, sodium, and potassium along with other minerals such as zinc, chromium, calcium, and chloride. They may also contain vitamins such as C, B6, B12, and niacin. For many people who have autoimmune disease, or food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances, you may need to avoid products containing gluten, dairy, corn, or soy as ingredients.
Here is a summary of some hydration tips:
- Calculate your daily water intake needs: Regularly drink water, calculating basic needs based on your body weight as above. Modify your daily water calculation based on provider recommendations if you have a chronic disease, or are pregnant/Nursing.
- Add additional fluid intake if you are performing activities or in an environment where you are sweating and/or exercising, or if you have a fever.
- For signs of dehydration, if adding additional fluids doesn’t resolve dehydration symptoms, you may want to add some electrolytes. This would be important especially if you are sweating profusely, performing moderate or high-intensity exercise, and/or spending a significant amount of time in hot/dry conditions. Follow any manufacturer recommendations and/or provider guidance. It is very important to not wait to rehydrate and rebalance electrolytes, as signs of dehydration can progress quickly. If you are vomiting, or have a change in your level of alertness, consult your provider.
- Change your environment if you are experiencing symptoms of dehydration-Remove yourself from any environmental conditions that are causing continued water loss/sweating. Get into a cool, dry place, and stop any activity/exercise.
- Get immediate medical help for signs of heat stroke or significant dehydration not responding to cooling off or providing fluids and electrolytes. DO NOT give any drink or food to a person who is confused, not alert, or having seizures. Call emergency 911 services for signs of heat stroke.
While it may take some trial and error on finding the right amount of water and an electrolyte replacement product that you like the taste of for when you need it, it is essential to pay attention to your own body such as cues of thirst, signs of overheating, swelling, fever, fatigue, and dizziness. Through body awareness and prevention techniques, and these hydration tips, you can help keep your body hydrated. Ultimately, staying adequately hydrated will help improve your overall health and wellness while giving you more energy throughout the day!
1. Cowen LE, Hodak SP, Verbalis JG. Age-Associated Abnormalities of Water Homeostasis. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. Published online 2023. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2022.11.002
2. Rolls BJ, Phillips PA. Aging and Disturbances of Thirst and Fluid Balance. Nutr Rev. 1990;48(3). doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1990.tb02915.x
3. Begg DP. Disturbances of thirst and fluid balance associated with aging. Physiol Behav. 2017;178. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.03.003
4. Ayotte D, Corcoran MP. Individualized hydration plans improve performance outcomes for collegiate athletes engaging in in-season training. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0230-2
5. Osayande OE, Inneh CA, Ugwu AC. Sweating, thirst perception and plasma electrolyte composition in women of varying body mass indices during moderate exercise. African Journal of Biomedical Research. 2016;19(2).
I am a Master’s prepared RN, National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Board-Certified Functional Wellness Coach, and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. I help people fix their chronic inflammation & pain with in-home lab testing, client assessments, personalized natural healing protocols, and online coaching to help them move from pain to peace so that they feel better, move better, and live better.