Most people have an intellectual understanding of the importance of staying hydrated; they know that water is essential for the body to function properly and that medical professionals recommend steady hydration throughout the day. However, studies show that many Americans don’t get enough water to stay healthy; for example, a 2018 Quench survey found that 77 percent of working professionals said that they don’t get enough water during the course of their day.
This raises an obvious question: How much water is needed to sustain optimal health? The answer varies by gender and by level of daily physical exertion. Many health and fitness experts say that there are numerous benefits to drinking a gallon of water a day—and some potential downsides to drinking less.
Why Drinking Water Matters
Before discussing the specific benefits of drinking a gallon of water a day, it may be helpful to consider the reasons that water is so vital for the body to function properly.
The Amount of Water Needed
While water is a universal need, different people need to drink different amounts of water. One of the most significant fault lines is between male and female water consumption needs. According to the Mayo Clinic:
- Men require about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water each day
- Women require about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water each day
It’s worth noting that most individuals get about 20 percent of their daily water intake from food, while the rest comes from drinking water.
What about the old adage to drink eight glasses of water daily? While this is a reasonable, easy-to-remember goal, it’s not set in stone; some individuals will benefit from eight glasses of water each day, while others may require a little less or a little more.
Regulating Bodily Functions
One thing that makes water consumption so critical is that water helps to regulate bodily functions. Consider a few ways that water impacts the body:
- It helps you maintain a healthy, steady body temperature.
- It lubricates your joints, making it easier for you to move around.
- It moistens the tissues in your eyes, nose and mouth.
- It helps carry oxygen and vital nutrients to your cells.
- It dissolves minerals and nutrients, making them more bioavailable.
Water and Your Organs
Water is especially important for ensuring that your organs function properly. Generally, your organs need water because it helps protect them; for example, water lubricates and cushions your spine, helping safeguard it against daily wear and tear.
Water also has a specific relationship with organs like the kidneys and liver. These organs play a critical role in helping your body process and remove waste; water helps flush your system and minimize that waste, which in turn eases the burden on your kidneys and liver.
Replenishing Your Water
Your body constantly uses its water supply, so it’s important to remain hydrated to replace the water lost. For example, drinking water helps replenish the water you lose when you perspire, when you eliminate waste and even when you breathe.
5 Benefits to Drinking a Gallon of Water a Day
Clearly, drinking water matters, and while aiming for eight glasses a day is reasonable enough, an even loftier goal is to consistently get a gallon of water daily. (Remember that a gallon is 16 cups; an eight-ounce glass is equal to a cup, so this goal effectively doubles the conventional wisdom.) Take a closer look at five specific benefits of drinking a gallon of water a day.
1. Water Provides an Energy Boost
One reason to aim for a gallon of water each day is that, according to WebMD, doing so may significantly boost your energy level. Low energy is a common problem. Some people start to slump in the afternoon and would sooner reach for a soda or a cup of coffee than a glass of water. Others feel groggy from the moment they wake up.
No matter your typical energy level, better hydration could be the answer. In fact, fatigue and low energy are two of the most immediate symptoms of insufficient water intake. Drinking a gallon of water each day may help you sustain your energy and even sleep better at night.
2. Water Improves Your Skin
Drinking plenty of water may also result in smoother, healthier skin and an altogether healthier appearance. Dehydrated skin quickly starts looking parched, cracked, and flaky. While moisturizing lotion has its place, doctors say that the best skincare comes from within. Those who drink a gallon of water each day report a whole host of improvements to their skin: fewer wrinkles, less dryness, less itchiness.
3. Drinking Water Curbs Cravings
A third benefit to drinking a gallon of water each day is that water consumption helps curb hunger cravings, and without as much appetite for snacks or second helpings, you might even see some weight loss. The reason for this is that when your body is dehydrated, it sends confusing signals to your brain; it may tell your brain that you’re still hungry, even if you’ve just finished a big meal. In other words, dehydration tricks your body into consuming food that it doesn’t really need.
A gallon of water each day may specifically help eliminate cravings for sweets; again, the upshot may be an overall healthier diet and weight loss.
4. Water Balances Your Fluids
When you’re not getting enough water, your brain triggers its “thirst” mechanism, which is its way of telling you it’s time to stop and hydrate. Along with this thirsty feeling, you may experience dry mouth or dryness and irritation in the nose and throat.
Bodily fluids that assist in blood circulation and nutrient consumption are also thrown out of balance, potentially leading to feelings of illness or fatigue. All these issues are triggered when your body is underhydrated and its fluid levels are out of balance. Drinking a gallon of water each day can address this.
5. Hydration Boosts Physical Performance
Last but not least on the list of benefits to drinking a gallon of water each day: hydration helps improve your body’s functioning. Simply put, when the body is dehydrated, it tends to move more slowly and less gracefully. The reason is that you lack the lubrication required for rapid, nimble movement.
That’s one reason that athletes, in particular, need to drink plenty of water each day: it helps them achieve the nimble movement they require to perform on the court or on the field, while also preventing feelings of stiffness and soreness.
The Dangers of Not Staying Properly Hydrated
If proper hydration helps you maintain robust health, the inverse is also true: insufficient hydration can impair your well-being and your physical performance.
The Dangers of Dehydration
Some of the most significant dangers of dehydration include the following:
- Mental “fog” and lack of clarity
- Digestive problems/difficulty eliminating bodily waste
- Overeating and a slow metabolism
- Frequent headaches
- Poor skin quality
- Minimal benefit from workouts and physical activity
Dehydration also lowers the body’s natural resistance to heat-related illnesses, from heat stroke to heat exhaustion.
Signs of Dehydration
How can you tell when your body isn’t getting the hydration it needs? The most typical warning signs of dehydration include the following:
- Dry mouth and swollen tongue
- Decreased urination
- Sugar cravings
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Bad breath
Dehydration During Pregnancy
Insufficient hydration can be especially risky for pregnant women. The reason is that moms-to-be need water to provide nutrition and hydration for themselves and their babies. Lack of hydration may result in a number of pregnancy complications, including low amniotic fluid and neural tube defects. It may also lead to insufficient breast milk production.
How to Overcome the Challenges to Consistent Water Consumption
It’s one thing to understand the benefits of drinking a gallon of water each day; actually doing it can be challenging, especially for those who face significant obstacles to consistent water intake.
Barriers to Hydration
The most common barriers to consistent hydration include the following:
- Lack of access to clean water, especially in impoverished and low-income communities
- Difficulty finding time to drink water during the workday
- Preference for high-cost bottled water
Also note that parents may often find it hard to get their kids to drink enough water, either because kids are overeager to play or because they’d rather drink milk, soda or juice.
Tips for Staying Hydrated
For those looking to increase their daily water intake, and perhaps even hit the gallon-a-day mark, here are some quick tips worth considering.
- Add a little variety; invest in natural flavor packets to infuse your water with the taste of fresh fruit, or make a pitcher of cucumber water to keep in your fridge.
- Develop the habit of drinking a glass of water after each bathroom break, replenishing the fluids you just lost.
- Try to drink water before every meal, which can help suppress appetite and prevent overeating.
- Keep a journal of how many glasses of water you drink each day, and challenge yourself to hit new goals. (You may also look at water drinking apps for this.)
- Make sure you’ve got a large water bottle with you at all times, especially when you head to the office each day.
To learn more about overcoming some of these barriers, consider these resources:
- WebMD, “Not Just One Reason Kids Don’t Drink Enough Water.” Discover some of the reasons that kids don’t always get adequate hydration.
- Healthline, “12 Simple Ways to Drink More Water.” Find some practical ways to boost daily water consumption.
- HuffPost, “13 Hacks That Will Force You to Drink More Water Each Day.” See some additional tips for boosting hydration.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Finding Other Water Sources in an Emergency. Get tips on surviving when clean water can’t be found.
- Kitchn, “7 Ways to Drink More Water While at Work.” Learn how to drink more water during the workday.
Embrace the Benefits of Hydration
Plenty of benefits to drinking a gallon of water a day exist; challenge yourself to reach that goal, and start making a strategy for incorporating more water into your daily life.