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Throughout the years, you may have heard a few different theories as to how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis. Common measurements include “Eight 8-oz. Glasses” and “One ounce of water per two pounds of body weight”. Staying hydrated is critically important to your health, no matter the circumstance, but with several varying ideas floating around, it’s helpful to know how much water you really need.

To get an accurate idea, we need to take a look at the various factors that understand that can influence the amount of water you should be drinking. For example: Your body temperature, the temperature of the surrounding environment, your activity level, age, gender, body type, health conditions such as diabetes, how much water is in the food you’re eating… and each day, this amount can change as a function of any of these circumstances.

Dehydration is the condition of not drinking enough— and this can cause a lot of uncomfortable side effects. Many, if not most of us, have experienced dehydration at some point in our lives. It’s not fun- it comes along with aches and pains, headaches, dizziness, and sometimes, even fainting. When dehydration gets severe enough, it can lead to hospitalization or fatality. During the summer months, it’s easy to notice when you’re not drinking enough water, because the heat serves as a constant reminder that we’re sweating out our water intake. It’s harder in the winter, when cool temperatures push us indoors; but our physical activity levels tend to drop during the snowy season, so don’t be surprised if you notice you’re less thirsty than normal.

On the opposite side of drinking too little, those who drink water throughout the day on the premise that they need to consume a certain amount to be healthy actually run the risk of drinking too much— which is just as, if not more, dangerous than the contrary. Too much water can cause your blood sodium levels to drop too low, which is a sometimes-fatal condition called hyponatremia. While it’s rare, it’s important to know that it is, in fact, possible to over-hydrate.

With all of this being said, a good baseline is to take your weight and halve it. This is the number of ounces of water you should be drinking, on average, each day. You can drink more, and should drink more if you’re working out. Be sure to drink 8 ounces of water within 30-45 minutes after working out, and replenish regularly throughout your workout to make sure you don’t get dehydrated. Be sure to pack a big bottle of water for when you exercise: Many health professionals recommend drinking between 5 and 10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes while working out. It might seem like a lot of water, but for all of us who work out regularly, we know it’s what our bodies need!