During the summer, many individuals have little trouble staying hydrated as it feels natural to reach for a fresh glass of water every hour or two because you’re thirsty.
During the cooler months of the year, however, many individuals assume that they need less water since they’re not sweating as much and they feel comfortable, not parched, and hence, tend to ignore winter hydration.
Hydration during the winter months is a concern as your body continues to lose water through the various internal bodily functions that it routinely performs, urination, perspiration and breathing. The fact that the late fall and winter months coincide with flu season doesn’t help either, since you lose water at an even faster rate when you’re sick.
Hydration is important year-round, and the absence of thirst does not always indicate that your body is properly hydrated. In order to keep your body fueled with water, it’s good to know how much to drink and how to drink it.
Water Hydration Requirements Differ for Men and Women
General medical wisdom dictates that you should be drinking about 8 cups of water per day if you’re an adult. A cup is 8 ounces, meaning that you should be drinking about 64 ounces of water per day. For visualization’s sake, that’s half of a one-gallon milk jug.
However, what most people don’t realize is that 64 ounces per day is only the bare minimum to maintain healthy body functioning. A 2004 study conducted by the Institute of Medicine found two things: everyone should be drinking a lot more water than what’s typically recommended, and hydration requirements differ greatly for men and women.
In fact, the report states that women should consume about 91 ounces of water per day, while men should consume about 125 ounces.
The report also notes that around 20% of your water intake for the day comes from food, not beverages. By adjusting the figures accordingly, we see that women and men should be drinking around 73 ounces and 100 ounces per day, respectively. That’s just over 9 cups for women and 12.5 cups for men.
Why is Hydration so Important?
Keeping your body hydrated is important for a number of reasons. Drinking enough water keeps your skin moisturized, and allows your body to properly regulate its temperature and eliminate waste. It’s also the vehicle that your body uses to bring nutrients from food into your cells.
It helps to digest food, and provides padding for our soft tissues and joints. Water accounts for at least 60% of your overall body composition, and you’ll die in about 3 days if you don’t have it.
How to Boost Your Water Intake
At this point, you may have realized that you’re not drinking nearly enough water each day, especially if you’re a male. Fortunately, following a few simple tips can help to keep you optimally hydrated:
Cut down on caffeine
Caffeine dehydrates your body rather rapidly. For every cup of coffee or soda you consume, add one cup of water to your daily intake minimum.
Eat food with a high water content
Although 20% of the water you consume comes from food naturally, it’s possible to boost yourself above the average by deliberately eating water-rich foods. Examples include carrots, grapefruit, broccoli, lettuce and watermelon, all healthy foods that you should be eating anyway.
Drink fruit juice or milk
Milk is an ideal alternative, so long as you choose low-fat (1%) or skim varieties. Fruit juice is fine in moderation, but be sure to select products labeled “100% juice.” Remember, even that has lots of sugar.
Track your consumption
Write down how much water you drink each time you imbibe throughout the day, and total it up before going to bed that evening. Once you’re meeting your goal consistently, it should be easier to naturally drink enough with counting ounces.
Write down reminders on sticky notes
Paste them to your fridge and your computer monitors at work and at home. This will increase your likelihood of filling up a glass even when you’re not thirsty.
Use a large glass or thermos
Preferably with measurement ticks indicating ounces on the side. You’ll be more likely to meet your daily quota if it doesn’t mean heading to the sink every 15 minutes.
Winter Hydration: The Bottom Line
Staying hydrated is absolutely crucial to daily body functioning and maintaining optimal health. Men should drink at least 12.5 cups of water per day, while women should drink at least 9. If you find that you’re not getting enough water each day, try lowering your caffeine consumption, using a larger water glass and tracking your daily water consumption carefully until you develop better habits.