How Much Water Do You Really Need to Drink?

We are already in the grips of a cold winter, and if you are anything like me, I am certainly less thirsty for water than when it is hot. I am always astounded by the fact that water accounts for 50-80% of body weight.

On average, men have a higher lean body mass and are heavier than women, so typically men need more water than women. To remain hydrated and healthy we need to be mindful of our intake, especially in the colder months.

Let’s look at how much we need for optimal health and wellbeing.

8 Cups? 2 Litres? How Much Do We Need?

There are so many different recommendations for how much water we need out there on Dr Google. Is it any wonder most of us are confused? If we look at the Nutrient Reference Values set by the National Health and Medical Research Council, our fluids (water, milk, all drinks) are set at 2.6L/day for men and 2.1L/day for women. That figure gets boosted another 800ml if we include our food intake; fruits, vegetables, soup, yoghurt all contribute.

Seems like a lot, but our body uses water for a number of roles. Think about it – everyday we sweat, urinate, digest food, transport nutrients inside our body, poop, pump blood… all of these bodily functions rely on fluid to do their job.

Also read: How to Avoid Weight Gain this Winter

A Typical Day Of An Average Female On 12WBT


Porridge with Pepita and Pear = 180ml

Tea with milk = 250ml


Apple and some nuts = 150ml

Water = 500ml


Mushroom, Chargrilled Capsicum & Rocket Toastie = 100ml

Water = 500ml


Yoghurt = 200ml

Cup of peppermint tea = 250ml


Spaghetti Bolognese = 300ml

Water = 500ml

TOTAL from food = approximately 930ml (NRV 800ml)

TOTAL from drinks = 2L (NRV 2.1L)

The Verdict

If you are drinking regularly and eating fresh, whole foods, you should be adequately covered for your hydration needs.

What you need to be mindful of, is your hydration during and after exercise. That will differ from person to person and also depend on the level of intensity (i.e. the sweat factor). As a broad rule, aim to have around 1L for each hour of exercise.

Forgetful? Keep a water bottle on your desk, in your handbag and in your gym bag. If you struggle to remember, set an alarm or perhaps sip a water before you start a new email, or every time you see an add on television, or each time you stop at a traffic light!


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Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu
Lisa is the Lead Dietitian for 12WBT. With a Masters in Nutrition & Dietietics as well as a Bachelor of Education, Lisa is keen to help all 12 Weekers understand how to achieve health for life. Lisa studied Sports Dietetics at the Australian Institute of Sport and has a keen interest in gastrointestinal health. A highly regarded communicator, Lisa is a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, the ‘Dietitian in Residence’ at the University of Canberra and a lecturer at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She has also been an expert on ABC Television’s Ask the Dr Series.

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