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A Gallon a Day? How Much Water Should You Really Drink?

By: Amanda Turner MS, RD, CSSD | 7/8/2016

A gallon a day if often the answer I get when I ask how much water my clients drink in a day. But why? When I ask how they feel drinking this much they say, “I have to pee all the time” or “sometimes my stomach feels really sloshy”. These are signs of OVER hydration, meaning you don’t need a gallon of water a day. So, how much do you really need? And does it HAVE to be just water?

What are my fluid needs?

Fluid needs are very individualized and depend on your size, the type and amount of activity you do, what type of environment you’re in and your genetics. There is no one amount that would suffice for everyone. The best thing you can do is listen to your body. Our best indicator for adequate hydration is the fluid that comes out! Yes, check out your urine color to determine your hydration (see link below for the USOC Hydration Fact Sheet and urine color chart).  In general, your urine should be pale yellow post-it note color or lighter. If it is neon yellow or apple juice color, that’s a sign you may be dehydrated. Quick side note, if you have just taken a vitamin supplement OR you’ve recently consumed beets or asparagus, those can temporarily change your urine color as well.

Keep a fluid source with you throughout the day and drink to thirst. This will be a great start to help you meet your daily fluid needs. You should be using the restroom regularly. In general, you should need to urinate every 2-3 hours during a normal day. If you can work all day long without using the restroom, you’re experiencing dehydration!

What types of fluid count?

Contrary to popular myths, you do not need to drink only water all day to get adequate hydration. However, keep in mind that water is the only essential nutrient, despite what you coffee drinkers think! Tea, coffee, carbonated water, milk, juice, and sports drinks can all count toward your fluid intake for the day. If you get bored with plain water, try spicing it up with a sprig of mint, a splash of fruit juice, or have a glass of hot tea for some herbal flavor.

Overall, don’t force yourself to drink a gallon of water a day. If you are drinking to thirst, watching your urine color and using the restroom every 2-3 hours, you are likely hydrated. And if that calls for a gallon of fluids, then you’re right on track! However, if you’re shooting for that goal but in the bathroom every 30 minutes, you’re drinking more than you need. Find the right balance for you, and most importantly, keep an eye on your urine color!

USOC Hydration Fact Sheet 2015