On average, the adult human body is made up of about 60% water! (It can range from about 50-75%.) Everything from our brain, skin, and other organs to even our BONES contain water (about 30%). Water is essential to proper bodily functions, and what we call an essential nutrient: we can't make it, so it needs to be consumed from our diet.
Staying hydrated helps our body to rid itself of waste more easily and improves digestion. It can help reduce headaches. It's even linked to improved cognition, creativity, and mental performance. Feeling a little foggy in the afternoon and ready to reach for that 3rd cup of coffee? It's possible you just need more water!
So, how much should we be drinking?
That old "8 x 8" rule (eight 8-ounce glasses) is a little arbitrary. Water-drinking advocates sometimes also recommend "half you body weight in water," but this is inconsistent, too. Some bodies require more; some less. The amount you need to consume can be affected by your age, activity level, climate, and the types of food you eat. Obviously if you sweat more, those fluids need to be replaced.
If you eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, munching away on foods such as carrots, celery, cucumber, apples, and oranges, you probably need to drink much less to stay hydrated that someone who does not, and even less that someone who is munching on pretzels instead.
We also don't need to drink plain water to improve hydration. All liquids aid in our hydration to some degree. Herbal tea can be a helpful addition for those who don't enjoy water or cold beverages.
Your best move is to drink water gradually throughout the day, and to pay attention to the cues your body is giving you to determine how hydrated you are:
notice when you start to feel thirsty or if your mouth is dry/sticky
notice how frequently (or infrequently) you need to go to the bathroom
notice if your urine is light yellow or if it is dark, or has a strong smell
notice if you've expelled a lot of liquid (sweat, diarrhea, etc)
notice how clear your thoughts and functioning are
If you still want to aim for 8 cups or 80oz or something like that, go for it - it's not going to hurt to have a tangible measurement in mind. Just know, as always, that the most important thing you can do it learn to listen to your body and adjust accordingly!
A few of us have started a "Water Accountability" group in Instagam DMs to remind each other to get in the habit of drinking it throughout the day! Want those reminders? Send me a DM @bewellwithsteph_ and I'll add you. :)