Staying hydrated is essential for our skin, digestion, hormone balance, sleep quality, mood–you name it. “The body needs to be hydrated in order to function at its best,” explained Bridgitte Mallinson, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and Founder and CEO of GutPersonal. “This means that our essential systems, such as our circulation, rely on hydration to perform well. When we are not hydrated, we can have symptoms like poor sleep, low energy, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, constipation, headaches, and dizziness.” It’s no wonder #WaterTok is a thing and TikTokers are creating and sharing water “recipes” with syrups and powders to make drinking water more appealing while making hydration look cool AF. Call it extra, but the 360 million views speak for themselves.
Whether we blame our busy lives, forgetfulness, or lack of motivation, we often fall short of our hydration goals. It’s no joke—according to a recent CivicScience poll, almost half (47%) of U.S. adults consume far below the recommended amount. Just how much water should we be drinking, and how can we ensure we’re drinking plenty of water on the reg? Ahead, dietitians spill their best tips for how to stay hydrated. Step 1: Grab your reusable water bottle, and let’s dive in to hydration 101.
How much water should we really be drinking daily?
It’s a tale as old as time that most of us have ingrained: Drink eight glasses of water per day. It turns out the eight-glasses-a-day age-old myth stems from a 1945 recommendation from the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council that suggested adults consume about 64 ounces of water daily, including from all their foods and beverages, which was misinterpreted as eight cups of water. Translation: That old-school rule is apparently not rooted in science.
Based on new research, our water needs are individualized and depend on factors like age, sex, size, physical activity levels, and the climate that you live in. If you’re looking for a baseline, Mallinson stated that the general rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water. “For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink at least 70 ounces of water every day. Most people tend to need more, especially if you struggle with constipation, eat a diet high in processed foods, live in warmer climates, or are physically active.”
Pro tip: Listen to your thirst cues to prevent dehydration and pay attention to your urine color as an indicator of hydration. “Pale yellow urine generally indicates proper hydration, while dark yellow or amber-colored urine may suggest dehydration,” conveyed Taylor Osbaldeston, a registered holistic nutritionist for Durand Health Group. “Aim for lighter-colored urine as a guide for maintaining adequate hydration.” While urine isn’t the sexiest topic, pretty cool how your body is always telling you what it needs, huh?
Expert-Backed Hacks for Optimal Hydration:
1. Always have a reusable water bottle on hand
While this may seem like an obvious hack, Bianca Tamburello, RDN, a registered dietitian for FRESH Communications and Azuluna Foods, expressed that investing in a water bottle that will get you excited and motivate you can make or break your hydration goals. “Should it be insulated, include a straw, or fit in your car’s cup holder? Think about what your perfect water bottle should look like and choose your favorite.” Having water readily available at all times—whether you’re at your desk or out and about—will serve as a gentle nudge to consistently drink up.
2. Plan out your water intake
Start your morning with a glass of water (yes, before your cup of joe). And if you’re in the mood to up the ante, add some lemon to rev up your digestion (think: get things moving). It doesn’t hurt that the citrus-spiked beverage adds some pizazz to plain ol’ water, not to mention supports glowing skin.
Once you’ve given your body a hydration boost first thing in the morning, set small goals to drink a defined amount of water and schedule regular hydration breaks throughout the day. “Utilize reminders or smartphone apps to establish regular intervals for water consumption, aiming for a goal every hour,” Osbaldeston suggested. “Divide your total water intake target evenly across your waking hours to ensure consistent hydration throughout the day. This approach helps you stay on track and maintain a steady intake of water.” Consider apps like Waterlogged or WaterMinder your accountability partner that can help you set goals, send you friendly reminders, and track your daily intake.
3. Incorporate water-rich foods into your diet
While H2O is the go-to choice for meeting your daily hydration needs, there are foods high in water content that you can also reach for to give you a leg up. Your body typically gets about 20% of the water it needs from the foods you eat throughout the day while the remaining 80% usually comes from drinking. In other words, don’t skimp on that 20%. “The foods highest in water content include cucumber, lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, zucchini, and strawberries,” Mallinson indicated. Throw together a veggie stir-fry or blend up a fruit and veggie smoothie to get in extra hydration. Foods packed with water can’t replace drinking water altogether, but adding them to the mix is a surefire way to give your body vitamins, minerals, and fiber while boosting your daily water intake (talk about a lot of bang for your buck!).
4. Add electrolytes and flavor to your water
Water alone can’t lead to optimal hydration. The body requires electrolytes to actually absorb the water. “Amplify your hydration with electrolytes,” Mallinson prescribed. “Minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium help get hydration into your cells.” Osbaldeston is also a fan of the supplement: “Add electrolytes to your water to replenish essential minerals lost through sweating and aid in maintaining proper hydration levels during physical activity or hot weather.” Instead of guzzling water with sugary additives (looking at you, #WaterTok), add flavor to your water while optimizing hydration with electrolyte packets (just beware of sugary options with a ton of additives), or for a (basically) free version, add a pinch of sea salt to your water.
5. Habit stack your water consumption
ICYMI, habit stacking is the way to go to create a new, healthy habit. If you want to introduce a new behavior to your routine, “stack” it onto a current task you already do to help you remember to do it, making it a more automatic habit. For example, bundle drinking water with your other to-dos, like drinking a glass while you prep your morning latte or taking a water bottle on your afternoon walk.
Another way to habit stack hydration is to pair a tall glass of water with your meals. “Always be sure to drink a glass of water with your meal,” Tamburello advised. “Drinking water helps slow the pace of eating at a meal and helps with digestion.” Side note: If consuming liquids with your food leaves you feeling bloated or with other unwanted side effects, stick to drinking them before or between meals.
6. Romanticize the hydration experience
Let’s be real: Plain water isn’t exactly thrilling, but who says knocking back water has to be boring? Sip flat or sparkling water from a wine glass and add fruit ice cubes to make the experience indulgent, à la Tamburello. Freezing fruit and veggies, like strawberries, citrus slices, and cucumbers, or refreshments, like juice, tea, or coffee, into ice cubes can take your mundane cup of water from womp womp to huzzah! And, if you’re feeling extra, use ice cube trays that come in various shapes, like roses, hearts, or fruits. Since we’re prioritizing drinking more water, we might as well make it fancy.
BTW, you don’t have to be attached to just water—rotate in other hydrating beverages like decaf herbal tea, coconut water, or bone broth. Tamburello recommended bone broth since it hydrates and offers up important electrolytes to replenish calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium stores. The point is to make hydration something that you look forward to so you’re able to keep up with the habit.
7. Compensate for your caffeine and alcohol intake
Remember how hydration needs vary from person to person? They can also vary day to day, depending on what else you consume. Some foods and drinks are hydrating (veggies and fruit, decaffeinated tea, etc.) but some are dehydrating. “Both caffeine and alcohol have diuretic properties, which can increase urine production and contribute to fluid loss,” Osbaldeston stated. “If you consume these beverages, consider compensating by increasing your water intake to counteract their potential dehydrating effects.” On days you partake in enjoying alcohol or caffeine, don’t sweat it–just be mindful about getting in some extra hydration. You know the drill: After savoring your Starbucks afternoon pick-me-up, follow it up with a full glass of water to balance it out.