You’ve got a slight headache, you’re a little tired, and your thinking is a bit fuzzy. Should you reach for a snack or a glass of water?
These are all symptoms that you are “running on empty”—but that could be from either not eating OR not drinking enough. The good thing is you don’t have to contemplate this one for too long. Reach for a glass of water and see if it helps; then think back to when you last ate or drank something.
Fluids are important—so much so that you can die in a few days without consuming them. Staying hydrated helps your skin stay healthy, maintains your body temperature, keeps your digestion running smoothly and gets rid of your body’s waste products—to name just a few vital functions! Consuming enough fluids also helps your muscles work effectively. Fluids are also vital to your mood and your focus.
As important as drinking enough fluids is, it’s still surrounded by controversy and questions.
1. Do you really need 8 glasses of water daily? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on many factors, such as your weight, activity level, the temperature and humidity and even your general health. What you probably do need is at least 8 glasses of fluid each day. One rule of thumb is that women should drink about 9 cups of fluid a day and men should have 12 cups. Again, it varies depending on lots of factors.
2. What counts as a fluid? Anything at room temperature does contribute to your daily fluid. Coffee and tea? Yes, Soda? Yes. Jell-O or ice pops? You bet. Are all those healthy ways to hydrate? Not necessarily. More on that later.
3. What about alcohol? Technically alcohol is a liquid, but it won’t get you very far in the hydration department. That’s because it causes your body to increase its urine output. Dehydration is one of the main symptoms of a hangover. So a good rule to put into place is drink a glass of water for each alcoholic drink you have.
4. Does caffeine dehydrate you? No–Dr. Lawrence Armstrong at the University of Connecticut has put this myth to rest. He found that study participants who consumed caffeine around the clock for 11 days had no more urine output than those who didn’t have any caffeine.
5. Do some foods count as fluids? Yes. Fruits and veggies contain 90-95% water by weight, so if you are big on produce, you may be getting at least a few cups of fluid through what you eat each day.
6. Do you need a sports drink? Probably not. As popular as sports drinks are—topping 6 billion dollars in annual sales in the US alone—they aren’t as necessary as you might think. If you’re going to the gym for a 45-minute workout, water will work just fine. If you’re jogging in 90-degree weather for 45 minutes, a sports drink can help prevent dehydration because of the added sodium. The rule of thumb is that you might need a sports drink if you’re working out continuously for an hour or more.
7. What about coconut water? Coconut water is naturally rich in potassium. It’s a drink I’ve recently recommended for clients who are short on that mineral. Even unsweetened, it does contain some natural sugar, which is also good for rehydrating. But it lacks sodium, which is important for replenishing fluids after an extensive workout.
8. How to tell if you’re drinking enough? If you’re thirsty, it’s the body’s first sign that you need water, so pay attention to it! However, studies have shown that older adults may not feel as thirsty, even when they’re dehydrated. The color of your urine is another good way to tell if you’re drinking enough. Light yellow is good—darker than that means you’re lacking. Get ahead of dehydration by drinking more when you’re in hot or humid conditions.
Tasty Ways to Hydrate
With summer temps hitting the 100’s all over the country, you may be giving more thought to hydrating healthfully. It’s especially challenging for those who really don’t like water. Here are some ideas:
- Make salad water: infuse your water with fresh parsley, cucumber and lime
- Minty fresh: Add fresh mint to water or club soda
- Go fruity: Add a shot of pomegranate or berry juice to your club soda and add a squeeze of fresh orange.
- Keep it cold—Have a supply water bottles in the freezer so when you are out running errands, you always have some cold water to sip on.
- Eat your water: watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, jicama. They all contain at least 90% water, so for every 10 ounces you eat, you’ll be having 9 ounces of water.
- Make ‘agua fresca: It’s a great way to drink you fruit. Just puree 3 cups of melon chunks in the blender and add 4 cups of water. Some filter out the pulp before adding water and others like it with pulp. Experiment with adding more water or adding lemon or lime and sugar if needed.
- Go Cocoa: Who would have thought that chocolate milk would be a good recovery drink after prolonged exercise? With its mix of protein, potassium, sodium and carbs, it’s apparently ideal.
This summer, don’t forget to drink up for good health! Cheers!
- Cool Alcohol-Free Drinks for Summer
- Study comparing hydration index of different beverages
- Myth busting caffeine and hydration