I have a mildly specific personal rule when I'm chatting with celebrities, influencers, and other notables about their wellness routines: No one I'm interviewing is allowed to cite "drinking lots of water!" as one of their primary tips for looking and feeling their best. It's boring, it's predictable, and let's face it—it's mostly untrue.
Don't get me wrong: Staying hydrated is an essential part of any wellness routine, even if it's not the cure-all remedy that many A-listers would ascribe it to be (probably because it seems more relatable than saying "I work out for two hours every day with a personal trainer"). But it's also important to be realistic about how and why it can benefit your routine—and that means shedding some light on some of the most persistent myths around H2O.
For that, we turned to some experts to answer for some of your water-related FAQs. Is alkaline water really all that great, for example? And should we be aiming to drink a gallon of water a day? Find it all out below.
It bears repeating: Water is not the ultimate remedy.
That's not to say it's not really important. "Water, rightfully so, should be a huge focus when focused on living a healthy life," says Julie Brown, program manager of nutrition coaching at Life Time. "But it’s certainly not a cure-all. Staying well-hydrated should be a part of your well-balanced diet."
A gallon a day is probably too much.
Overdoing it on water isn't just unnecessary—it can actually be downright dangerous. Instead, aim for this rule of thumb: "It's crucial to ensure you are getting in half your body weight in ounces of water of water each day," says Brown. That means if you weigh 125 pounds, you'll aim for roughly 63 ounces a day—so, about half a gallon.
Note that you may want to add more depending on your activity level. "Add an additional 16 to 20 ounces of water for each hour of physical activity you perform," suggests Brown.
Know exactly what your water intake is doing for your body.
How's this for some perspective: "Water is one of the six critical nutrients you need to live," says Joy Stephenson-Laws, founder of Proactive Health Labs (pH). "The other nutrients are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals."
But water is the most essential, she says, because it facilitates absorption of those other five nutrients. That's not even to mention that it comprises a huge part of our major organs: "The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, lungs are about 83%, skin contains around 64%, muscles and kidneys are 79% and even the bones contain water, at 31%," says Stephenson-Laws. "As a result, your major organs need water to function effectively."
On the flip side, know the telltale signs of hydration.
Fatigue, bloat, and headaches are often good markers that you're not as well-hydrated as you could be. And it might not even feel super serious: "It has been reported that up to 75% of us are dehydrated and don't even know it," says Stephenson-Laws. "In medical terms, this means that many of us 'function in a chronic state of dehydration.'"
If you hate knocking back straight-up H2O, know that you can hydrate yourself in other ways.
"Keep in mind that you can get part of your daily water needs from some of the foods you eat: In the United States it is estimated that about 22% of water comes from our food," says Stephenson-Laws. And you can tip those scales in your favor by choosing water-heavy foods like cucumbers or watermelon.
"Not only will you be helping yourself get your daily water needs, but you will also be getting critical nutrients like vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy," she adds. "As a general rule of thumb, fresh fruits and vegetables have a higher water content than most foods."
Not all water is created equal.
Contaminants and public filtration systems vary greatly from place to place, which is why it's crucial to invest in your own protocol at home—even if it's just a Brita.
"Ensuring you’re drinking pure water free of heavy metals and contaminants can be just as important as the water itself," says Brown. "Investing in a water filtration system or reverse-osmosis (RO) system to ensure you have clean drinking water and that you are keeping plastic water bottles out of landfills. I use a water filtration pitcher at my house and fortunately my office offers RO water. I also love to mix in a few sparkling water beverages each day for a little variety."
Curious about alkaline water?
Ultimately, it's probably not worth the hype—and certainly not the expense. "Many people are staunch advocates for alkaline water, which is water with a pH of 8 or above," explains Brown. "Keeping the body in a more alkaline state has long been favored by holistic health experts, but simply drinking alkaline water won’t do this for you. Alkaline water can most certainly be a part of your healthy hydration practices, but it can be expensive and impractical to limit your water intake to alkaline water."
Instead, start by focusing on just hitting your daily intake goals. "I always tell my clients: Never leave home without your wallet, your keys, and your water," says Brown.