Everyone agrees that hydration is an important aspect of health – water makes up more than half your body weight, and can be found in every cell of your body. What’s not as agreed on is how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis. The old standard says everyone should drink at least 6, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. More recently, experts advise dividing your body weight in half and using that as a guideline for the number of ounces you should be chugging.

Perhaps you’ve tried one of these magic formulas only to find yourself running to the bathroom at all hours, or listening to your stomach slosh with liquid as you move. The truth is, everyone’s hydration needs are different. Some may find that a certain guideline works well for them, while others need significantly less or more. Keep in mind that you also get water through other beverages and foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

But how do you know you’re getting enough?…

An easy way to gauge your hydration level is the color of your urine. Light or colorless urine is a sign you’re getting enough water. Another sign is thirst – your body’s built-in mechanism to prevent dehydration. One problem is that thirst is often misinterpreted as hunger, so if you think you need a snack, try a glass of water first. It’s also helpful to be familiar with the following signs of dehydration:

  • Dry mouth, extreme thirst
  • Fatigue or headache
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or confusion

    Water & Exercise

    Besides trying to figure out how much water you should be drinking all day just to replace the amounts lost during your body’s processes, there’s also the question of hydration during exercise. How much water do you need to drink in preparation and recovery from exercise? Should you use sports drinks? Again, there’s no magic number for everyone, but if you follow these recommendations from the American Council on Exercise, you shouldn’t be in danger of either over or under-hydrating.

  • Drink 17-20 ounces 2-3 hours before planning to work out at the health club.
  • Drink another 8 ounces 20-30 minutes prior to exercising, or during your warm up.
  • Drink 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink 8 ounces within 30 minutes of completing your fitness center routine.

    Sports Drinks

    Sports drinks are popular among athletes, and are readily available in most fitness clubs, but are they really necessary? Most experts say not unless your workout runs longer than 60 minutes, or is especially intense (read: lots of sweating). During intense or long workouts, it’s be helpful to replace the electrolytes lost through sweat as well as fast-digesting carbohydrates for energy and endurance, but if you’re only planning to jog for 15-20 minutes, sports drinks are just extra calories you don’t need.

    Learning to Love Water

    Many people know they need to drink more water, but blame a busy schedule with no time to find a vending machine or convenience store. This is easily remedied by purchasing a filter bottle and filling it with tap water wherever you’re at. Others complain that it’s just too boring and tasteless. Spice up your water without sugar, calories and chemicals and give yourself an instant detox by adding slices of lemon, lime, berries, or even sprigs of mint. Finally, when you’re at a restaurant, always ask for water. Not only is it better for you, it will help you eat less, and it’s free!