“Foods with a diuretic effect may cause you to excrete more water, so you may need more,” Levinson says. If you eat high-sodium foods, as another example, your body likely will retain more water, leaving you thirstier. Drinking more fluids will help dilute your system and get fluids moving regularly again.
So, how can you tell if you’re getting enough water?
Since you’re not always keeping track of these sneaky sources of fluids, the best way to gauge your daily water intake is by how your body feels. More specifically, when you tune into your body—eating when you feel signs of hunger and drinking when you’re thirsty—there’s a solid chance you’re going to get what you need, or pretty close to it. So it may work for you to stop worrying about the whole eight glasses a day thing and think about it this way instead.
It’s also important to make a conscious effort to drink more whenever you’re getting sweaty. Along with food, water is the fuel that powers your workouts. As you sweat, you’re literally losing water, and you have to replenish it as you go. Aim to drink one or two cups of water before you exercise or do work in the heat, and sip about a half to one cup of water every 15 minutes while you’re working out. If you’re sweating really hard, or if you’re out in the heat, you might need more—listen to your body. You can even use a hydration pack so that you’re able to drink while you’re hiking, working in the heat, or running long distances.
You don’t need to think too much about hitting a particular number of cups/liters/gallons/bottles of water each day, but it can be helpful to get in the habit of drinking more regularly throughout the day, even before you’re thirsty. Yes, if you’re thirsty, your body’s telling you that you need more water. But this also means you could already be dehydrated, Levinson explains. To make sure you’re hydrated, keep a refillable water bottle with you all day so you can constantly sip whenever you want. For more tips, check out these 22 easy ways to drink more water every day.
Another good way to determine your fluid status is by taking a peek inside the toilet after you pee. “If your urine is light yellow, you’re probably getting enough fluids. If it’s dark or smells strongly, you probably need more water,” Levinson says.
Here are some subtle signs that you’re not drinking enough water:
If you’re not drinking enough water, you run the risk of dehydration. Some of the signs of dehydration are fairly obvious—but others aren’t. If you’re thirsty, you should drink. That’s a no-brainer. But, for some folks, dehydration doesn’t always include feeling thirsty. There are a few other signs of dehydration that aren’t as obvious.
1. You’re feeling super dry.
When your body is begging for hydration, the need can manifest in various signs of dryness, including dry mouth, chapped lips, dry skin, reduced sweating, and a lack of tears.
Doctors aren’t quite sure why, but they think it might be because when hydration levels drop, so does blood volume, which can reduce oxygen supply to the brain, the Merck Manual explains.
3. Your muscles feel weak or crampy.
Cramping, muscle spasms, and generally feeling weak or fatigued can all be indications of dehydration.
4. Your breath is randomly stinky.
Having bad breath can be a tip-off that you need to sip some water. That goes with the dry mouth thing: Saliva has bacteria-fighting properties; when your saliva levels go down, so does your mouth’s ability to fight odor-causing germs.
5. You feel confused.
In addition to the above, confusion and delirium can all be signs of severe dehydration, the Mayo Clinic explains. If you have these symptoms, you should reach out to your doctor immediately.
In rare cases, you can also overhydrate.
Most people aren’t at risk for overhydration, but it’s more likely to occur during endurance activities, like running a marathon. Additionally, overhydration is more likely in older people because kidney function becomes less effective as you age, the Merck Manual explains. (Your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and fluids from the body, the Mayo Clinic explains.) Overhydration can cause a condition known as hyponatremia, which happens when the sodium levels in your bloodstream become unusually low, leading to your cells becoming waterlogged, the Mayo Clinic explains. Signs include feeling nauseated, confused, run-down, and irritable. Overhydration can also cause seizures and put you into a coma if it’s not caught in time.