25% of U.S. adults say they drink 1 or 2 glasses of water a day — and 8% rarely or never drink it, Yahoo/YouGov poll finds. Here's how to sneak more hydration into your day.

How much water should you be drinking a day? (Getty Images)
How much water should you be drinking a day? (Getty Images)

A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll has revealed that many Americans are coming up short in hydration. The survey of 1,746 U.S. adults, conducted from April 11 to April 15, found that 8% say they rarely or never drink water, while 25% are drinking just one to two glasses of water a day. The overwhelming majority of respondents (66%) reported drinking three or more glasses a day.

Is that enough? According to Edwina Clark, a registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports dietetics and owner of Edwina Clark Nutrition, the answer is no. Clark tells Yahoo Life that she’s “concerned” about the 8% of Americans who are getting very little water intake, especially given the popularity of sugary beverages.

How can people who are skimping on their water consumption make sure they’re still getting hydrated — and what’s the ideal water intake we should all be getting? Experts share their recommendations.

How much water should you drink a day?

According to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the daily recommendation for water consumption is nine glasses a day for women, totaling 2.2 liters assuming a standard 8-ounce cup size, and 13 glasses, or 3 liters, for men. These guidelines account for “fluid intake from beverages including water, tea, broth and milk,” says Clark. “Food typically provides another 0.5 to 1 liter of fluid intake per day on top of water from beverages.”

But water needs, she adds, can “vary widely depending on age, activity level, size, climate or season, and illness.” People might also need more than what’s been recommended by the NAM when considering water loss through factors like sweat.

“Fluid intake is particularly important before, during and after exercise to combat sweat-related losses,” says Clark. “Some people may need a sports drink during and after exercise to replace electrolytes lost through sweat as well as fluid. However, this is largely dependent on exercise intensity, duration and ambient temperature.”

What are people drinking instead?

Of the 8% of poll respondents who report rarely or never drinking water on a daily basis, 38% indicated that soda is their preferred beverage. Clark says that this is cause for concern.

“While soda may not increase fluid depletion [meaning it won’t contribute to dehydration], drinking sugar-sweetened beverages on a consistent basis is associated with a raft of health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and tooth decay,” she says.

Clark adds that while “the occasional sweetened drink is fine for most,” consistently opting for it over water could pose problems.

The second-most-popular drink among this group was tea, preferred by 21%, which Clark says is a good alternative to water if unsweetened. The 15% who go for coffee, however, could have trouble staying hydrated depending on the amount of caffeine they drink over a day.

“Low to moderate caffeine consumption has not been shown to impact fluid balance,” she says, noting that a 16-ounce Starbucks cold brew won’t leave an average-size adult dehydrated. A 2017 study indicates that higher caffeine intake, amounting to four or more coffees a day, could lead to a diuretic effect.

How can you tell if you’re hydrated?

Ingesting fluids is important for maintaining a good blood pressure, heart rate and electrolyte balance, according to Dr. Amber Robins, a family and lifestyle medicine practitioner at Rochester Regional Health. She tells Yahoo Life that the easiest way to determine if you’re hydrated is taking a look at your urine.

“Having clear urine can mean that you have an adequate amount of fluid intake,” she says. “If your urine is darker in color, this likely means that you are dehydrated.”

Simple ways to increase water intake

If you notice that you might be dehydrated, Clark suggests the following to amp up your fluid intake:

Have water within reach. Keep a large water bottle on your desk, in your gym bag, etc. and sip frequently throughout the day. The more visible water is, the more likely you are to stay hydrated.

Make it fun. Add fruit wedges and herbs to water to make it more appealing; some have even credited the “sexy water” trend with spurring them to sip. If you’re not a water lover, unsweetened tea and sparkling water are good alternatives without added sugar.

Eat your fruits and veggies. Water-rich foods like fruit and veggies can contribute up to 20% of your fluid intake. Make sure you get at least three servings of veggies and two servings of fruit a day to help top off your water tank. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce, bell peppers, watermelon, radishes, tomatoes, spinach and berries are more than 90% water.

Watch out for water depleters like alcohol. Alcohol will make you lose fluids more quickly, which is why bathrooms at bars often have a line.

Other ways to start would be to make a goal of drinking water before each meal or once you wake up in the morning, according to Robins. Clark adds: “People generally wake up dehydrated after consuming little or no fluid overnight, so starting your day with a big glass of water is generally a good idea.”