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The Latest Science on Water—and Why You Should Drink More of It

Not only can it help your metabolism, but it can also help improve your mood and fight off disease.
The Latest Science on Water—and Why You Should Drink More of It

By now you may have heard that the 8x8 water rule (8 ounces, 8 times a day) has been debunked. The truth: It’s basically an arbitrary guideline that dates back to 1945 and there’s no real science behind it.

Feeling duped? Don’t—it turns out the science surrounding water isn’t all that advanced in 2015, either. “Water is absolutely crucial for the body, but it’s a forgotten nutrient in science. We don’t have the best tools for measuring how much we drink, and so the literature around hydration is about as advanced as smoking research was in the 70’s,” says Stavros Kavouras, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Arkansas who studies hydration.

Here’s what researchers have sorted out: water (which makes up around 50-60 percent of your insides) cushions and lubricates your joints, and keeps the body running by regulating body temperature, aiding digestion, and eliminating waste through sweat and numbers 1 and 2. (Still, 37 percent of adults drink fewer than three cups a day, and seven percent don’t drink any water, according to the CDC.) There are a few other critical, science-backed reasons we’re on team hydration, too:

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A new study published in the journal Obesity found that overweight adults who drank 16 ounces of water before every meal lost around 9 pounds over 12 weeks, which was more than those who didn’t drink any water. (The extra H2O made them feel fuller.) And that makes this about the easiest diet, ever.

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Being dehydrated by as little as one percent can lead to headaches, fatigue, a bad mood, and trouble focusing, according to a study of young women published in the Journal of Nutrition. (Yep, sounds like a hangover.)

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The kidneys are one of the first organs to really cry out if you don’t hydrate, says Kavouras. Research (including a 2011 study from the University of Australia) has found that those who drink more water are less likely to have chronic kidney disease.

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So the question remains: “If not 8 glasses, then what?” The (completely unsatisfying) answer is that everyone, and everyday, is different when it comes to proper hydration, says Kavouras. “If you’re sweating and the AC is broke and you worked out earlier, you’re going to need more water than on a day when you’re sedentary in a room pumping cold air.” Age, weight, and climate all play into your needs. But as a rough guideline, The Institute of Medicine estimates that men and women need around 3.7 and 2.7 liters of water a day, respectively, which includes all the water you get from food and other beverages. (Most people get around 20-25 percent of their water intake through food.) The best (and oldest) trick in the dehydration book is to look at the color of your pee. Anything darker than a light lemonade color means you’re in need of some H2O.

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