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Water helps us digest food, regulate body temperature, carry nutrients around the body, protect organs, maintain proper sodium balance, and normalize blood pressure. On average, people to drink need about 5 cups (1.18 liters) of water daily.

The amount an individual person needs at any given moment, however, can vary widely depending on their environment, exercise level, personal health, and even the time of day. Knowing when and how much to drink can be tricky, but research has provided some guidelines for staying hydrated.

First Thing in the Morning

Water is considered the gold standard for hydration and drinking plenty of it early in the day is ideal for energy and concentration.

Coffee can also be beneficial; while some people believe that coffee dehydrates, more recent research indicates that drinking coffee may have similar benefits to water.

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Right Before Bed

It may seem practical to drink water before bed to stay hydrated throughout the night, but this can backfire. Drinking lots of water late in the evening increases the risk of disrupted sleep since you're more likely to wake up when you need the bathroom.

Try to limit water to 12 or fewer ounces right before bedtime. As long as you've been drinking enough throughout the day, you shouldn't feel too thirsty when you're getting ready to sleep.

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While Eating

Drinking water before or during meals can improve digestion and combat overeating, since thirst is often mistaken for hunger. While having a glass of water at hand is great, don't forget that you're getting your hydration by eating water-rich foods, too.

Fresh fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, watermelon, and cauliflower alongside a glass of water are great for keeping hydrated.

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Before Exercise

To remain hydrated while exercising, start with a few cups of water two to three hours before the workout begins. This boosts energy, aids concentration, and protects the body. Cool, plain water is ideal for workouts lasting an hour or less.

During a longer period of exercise, like endurance training or a day of physical work, it may help to drink a sports beverage with electrolytes or a mix of fruit juice and water to replace sugars and sodium. Try to drink every twenty minutes or so. Avoid energy drinks as the caffeine in them can aggravate dehydration.

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During Heat Waves

During a heat wave, it's important to make sure everyone drinks water regularly even if they don't feel thirsty — once you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.

Symptoms of dehydration can come on quickly and without enough water to regulate body temperature, a person can develop heat exhaustion. Watch out for signs of heat-related illness: dry mouth, cramps, dizziness, confusion, and pale skin.

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While Fighting the Flu

Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea can all contribute to dehydration. While recovering from the flu or another short-term illness, it's important to drink a glass of water or another clear fluid at least once per hour.

Drinking plenty of water can also help clear mucus, which relieves stuffy noses and coughing and makes it easier to breathe. Alternating with a fluid that has electrolytes is also a good idea when you're sick.

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On Vacation

Before you go on vacation, always find out the rules around the water in the area. If it's deemed unsafe, avoid drinking ice water, fountain drinks, or freshly squeezed juice from restaurants, as well as anything not packaged that may have been washed. It's safer to drink milk, hot tea, and bottled or canned beverages.

Just because the locals drink it doesn't mean you can, as their bodies may have adapted to the unique components of their water, while yours hasn't. Consider climate as well. People from cooler climates will need to drink more than they are used to in hot, humid environments.

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During Pregnancy

Pregnant people should drink an extra cup of water every day to support proper fetal circulation and amniotic fluid. Drinking more water can also help ease constipation, a common pregnancy symptom.

Continue drinking extra water throughout the pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Infants don't need to drink water, because breast milk and formula provide all their hydration, but a dehydrated parent may not be able to produce enough milk to meet the infant's needs.

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While Living With Chronic Illness

Water intoxication is a rare but dangerous condition in which a person drinks too much water, upsetting the balance of electrolytes in their body. Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of water intoxication.

People with thyroid conditions or kidney disease may need to consult their doctor to make sure they're not drinking too much or too little.

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With Medication

People taking antidepressants, anti-psychotics, and mood stabilizers like lithium should watch out for signs of dehydration. These drugs can make the body more sensitive to heat.

Blood pressure medications also have this side effect, as well as many anti-histamines and over-the-counter painkillers. People who regularly take these medications should take extra care to stay cool during the summer and drink water regularly.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.