So how much water do I really need to drink?

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I have a love-hate relationship with water. Sure, it's crucial for survival, but getting myself to drink enough of it is as impossible as getting myself to do laundry before I run out of socks. We all know people on the opposite end of the spectrum too: the ones parading around the gym chugging from containers that look like they belong on the top of water coolers. I know my water-drinking habits are bad, but is downing it by the gallon really necessary?

To figure it out, I called up an expert—because being in a constant state of dehydration is just not right, but neither is living your life between bathroom breaks.

If you're still going by the whole 8-glasses-a-day rule, you're doing it wrong.

Eight cups a day is a cute start, but, in reality, a standard number just won't cut it. Many factors play into the amount of water you should be drinking each day, and even fancy online water-intake calculators can't give you a solid answer.

"To be blunt, the calculators aren't the best rule of thumb to follow," says Amy Shapiro, a registered dietician and the founder and director of Real Nutrition. "A person's water consumption is so individualized to their activity level, age, weight, health, and climate."

More: 30 Wine Cocktails, Because You Need More Summer Water

So here's how to decode your personal water-chugging baseline:

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So how much water do I really need to drink?
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So how much water do I really need to drink?

Gender: Right now, the Institute of Medicine’s guidelines for adequate intake for women is 9 cups (74 ounces) and 13 cups (101 ounces) for men.

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Weight: Multiply your weight by two-thirds. That number, in ounces, is the bare minimum amount of water you should be drinking. For example, a 160-pound person should drink at least 107 ounces a day. This might be different than your gender-based recommendation, and that’s okay. Go with the highest amount.

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Age: Age won’t play a big role in your water consumption until you get older. Shapiro says the most important thing to remember is people feel thirst less as they age, so older people should pay closer attention to how much they drink.

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Activity: Turns out, the gym rats aren’t completely delusional. “An active person certainly needs more water to stay hydrated than someone who’s sedentary or lightly active throughout the day since the body of an active person loses more water in sweat,” Shapiro says. You should be adding an additional 30 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of exercise, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, and it’s important to hydrate both before and after you exercise.

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Climate: If you live in hot or humid weather, you’ll probably be sweating more. Because of this, you might need to increase your water intake.

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Pregnancy: The changes that occur in your body while pregnant or breastfeeding require a higher water intake—especially while nursing. The bare minimum for pregnant women is 77 ounces a day while nursing women is 105 ounces a day, says the Mayo Clinic.

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Illness: If you have a fever, are vomiting, or have diarrhea, drink extra water to make up for fluid loss.

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But the only medically tested, nutritionist-approved method of knowing whether you're drinking enough water is pretty simple: Check your pee.

"The best measure for adequate hydration is if your urine is very pale yellow to almost colorless, and you don't feel any dehydration symptoms," Shapiro says.

I can't say I'll become a water junkie anytime soon, but there is hope. Even after a few days of drinking more than usual, I'm already feeling—and seeing!—a huge difference. My headaches are gone, my skin looks brighter, and I've even stopped mindlessly munching chips and salsa all afternoon. I may even get a bigger water bottle for the gym.

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