How to drink more water

Pregnant woman drinking glass of water in kitchen at home. - stock photo
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Figuring out how to drink more water isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Even though most of us know that water is vital for us to consume, chugging back the cold stuff can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore. Investing in one of the best water bottles and keeping it in a place that’s visible to you throughout the day is one of several simple tricks you can employ to ensure you stay hydrated and healthy.

But, before we dive into more tips, why is water important? Water is, unsurprisingly, vital for humans to consume, and is responsible for a host of essential functions in the body. The human body is over 55% water, and the liquid plays a key role in the digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients, building and structure maintenance of cells, removal of waste and toxins, temperature regulation, and joint lubrication. 

Unfortunately, a large proportion of US adults are dehydrated and this can be attributed to a number of factors, particularly overconsumption of caffeinated drinks, higher workloads and stress levels. So, how do we drink more water? 

Well, there are some simple tactics to increase water intake during the day. The most effective tactics will depend on the individual, and what works best for one person may be totally useless for another. Be sure to try out various tactics and see what works best for you. 

Ways to drink more water

According to a 2021 paper in StatPearls, it’s suggested that approximately 75% of adults in the United States are chronically dehydrated. Although this figure is not yet supported by medical literature, what we do know is that dehydration is incredibly common. With that in mind, learning how to stay hydrated is of the utmost importance, but how do you go about ensuring you’re getting enough water?

The simplest way to start drinking more water is to simply set a goal or target amount of water that you want to drink every day. Setting a goal, in and of itself, is an incredibly powerful behavior change tactic, as illustrated in a 2017 paper in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend drinking 124 fluid ounces (15.5 cups) of water per day for men, and 92 fluid ounces (11.5 cups) per day for women. Just setting that as a target can be a highly effective way to up your water intake.

Image of person piuring water to drink

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But how best to measure how much water you’re drinking? The easiest way is to get yourself a water bottle of a certain size and you’ll know how many bottles of water to drink every day to hit the target. There are two tactics you can use here, depending on which works best for you. You can use a 64 fl oz bottle, so you know you need to get through two of them a day to hit your target. For other people, a large amount of water like that can seem overwhelming, and they take the opposite approach. Instead, some like a bottle of 8-16 fl oz, and keep track of how many times they’ve drunk a full bottle. Breaking up bigger goals into smaller, bitesize pieces can work very well.

Some people find the taste of water a bit bland, especially when trying to drink more per day. A great way to get around that is to simply make it tastier! Either use some sugar-free squash to give it some flavor, or add some cut-up fruit like a lemon or orange for a refreshing drink. If you’re finding it tough to remember, an easy way to keep it in mind is to start wearing a bandage, new piece of jewelry, or band around your wrist to help you remember, and every time you see it you’ll remind yourself to drink more water. 

Finally, you can just force yourself to get reminded.  Get an 8 fl oz sized cup or glass, set an alarm for every hour (or more frequently) during the day, and every time your alarm goes off fill up the glass, and drink it. 8 fl oz isn’t a huge amount to drink, and can easily be drunk in a couple of seconds.

Tips for getting into the habit of drinking water

Making drinking water a habit can be a little more troublesome than simply setting reminders, and it takes more concerted effort to do. Setting alarms is all well and good, but habits should be subconscious actions, not forcible reminders. At the start, your decision to drink more water will be very much a concerted effort, whether you’re using reminders, or just regularly thinking about it. Over time, it will become less of an effort, and more of a habit or routine. You can even pick scheduled events like meals, TV shows, or meetings to drink water before and after, and the regular occurrence of such events will ingrain the habit more easily.

Image of woman eating a healthy meal and drinking water

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As with any new behavior, it’s important to keep some kind of record of how closely you’re achieving your goal. Whether it’s on an app on your phone, a mental note, a physical note, or some other method, keeping a track of how much water you’re drinking during the day can be a strong motivator to hit your target. On days you do very well (or not so well) it can be useful to think about the day’s events and what happened that helped you achieve your target, or what prevented you from getting close. 

Finally, an easy way to drink more water is to have lots of water available, on-hand and visible. If it’s out of sight, it’s probably out of mind.

How to know if you’re drinking enough water

The most reliable way to know if you’re drinking enough water is to check your urine: it should be light yellow or clear, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other ways to check involve being aware of the most common signs of dehydration as outlined in a 2019 paper in the International Journal fo Environmental Research and Public Health: frequent thirst, feeling dizzy, and difficulty concentrating, among others.

Drinking too much water is rarely a problem for healthy adults, whereas dehydration is much more prevalent. If you’re in doubt at all, there’s probably no harm in drinking some water. No matter what tactic you’re using to up your intake, make sure you get a water bottle that’s right for you.

Will McAuley

Will McAuley is a London-based Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach who’s writing has appeared in Men’s Fitness and GQ magazine, covering exercise, nutrition and health. He has a Master’s degree in Strength & Conditioning from Middlesex University in London, is a published scientific author in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from Trinity College Dublin.