Homemaker’s Column: Fluid Needs

July 25, 2022

Christine J. Patrick, County Extension Agent – EFNEP

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated when outdoor temperatures and humidity are extremely high. Dehydration is a health risk, especially for young children and the elderly. To avoid dehydration and keep your body working, usually during the summer months, replace water lost through sweating, breathing, urination, etc., throughout the day.

On average, a healthy adult needs 8 to 12 cups of water to replace the amount lost through sweat, breathing, urination, and bowel movements. These fluids must be replenished to prevent dehydration and keep the body working usually. Eating a high-fiber diet requires extra water to process the additional roughage. One quart of water is needed daily for every 50 pounds. The exact amount of water required depends on age, gender, weight, health, level of physical activity, foods eaten, medications taken, and the weather.

Thirst is one sign that you need fluids. Your current fluid intake is probably adequate if you drink enough water to quench your thirst, feel well, and produce an average amount of colorless or slightly yellow urine. However, do not wait until you feel thirsty before drinking something. Sometimes the brain doesn’t get the thirst signal. Older adults often lose the ability to sense thirst.

Eighty percent of your total fluid intake comes from beverages, and the other 20% comes from foods. Fruits fresh, frozen, and canned produce lots of water. For example, watermelons, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery contain more than 90% water, and oranges are 87% water. Milk, soymilk, juice, and soup all supply water to the body and contain other nutrients.

Choose water as your primary beverage. It is usually inexpensive and readily available. Water is also thirst-quenching, contains no calories, fat, cholesterol, or caffeine, and is low in sodium. Water’s other benefits include:

  • Prevents dehydration
  • Regulates body temperature to about 98.6ºF
  • Reduces fluid retention
  • It gives the feeling of fullness when consumed with a meal
  • Carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells
  • Helps prevent constipation
  • Cushions joints
  • Helps strengthen muscles

Try to drink water instead of sugary drinks. Other smart beverage choices are low-fat or fat-free milk, 100% vegetable and fruit juices, and unsweetened beverages that contribute to total water intake without adding calories. Limit beverages containing carbonation, caffeine, and alcohol.

All beverages are mostly water, which is a nutrient that is essential to life. Every body function depends on water, and you can live only a few days without it. Your total body weight is 55-75% water, approximately 10 to 12 gallons. Water makes up about 83% of blood, 73% of muscles, 25% of body fat, and 22% of bones.

Tap water, especially from large municipal water systems, is as safe as

bottled water and less expensive. The added expense may be worthwhile if bottled water gets a person to drink more water. However, be aware that some bottled water is reprocessed tap water, and others have added sugar and sodium.

For more information on the benefits of drinking water, how to determine the amount of water you need, ways to drink more water throughout the day, and symptoms of dehydration, visit the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center on the web at and refer to Fact Sheet #4151, Fluid Needs.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. It is an equal opportunity employer.