Staying hydrated is essential for our skin, digestion, hormone balance, sleep quality, mood. “The body needs to be hydrated to function at its best,” explained Bridgitte Mallinson, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and founder and CEO of GutPersonal. “This means that our essential systems, like our circulation, rely on hydration to function well. When we are not hydrated, we can experience symptoms such as poor sleep, low energy, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, constipation, headaches and dizziness. It’s no wonder #WaterTok is a thing and TikTokers are creating and sharing water “recipes” with syrups and powders to make drinking water more appealing while hydrating looks cool AF. Call it extra, but the 360 million views speak for themselves.
Whether we blame our busy lives, forgetfulness, or a lack of motivation, we often fall short of meeting our hydration goals. No joke, according to a recent CivicScience survey, nearly half (47%) of US adults consume far below the recommended amount. How much water should we drink and how can we make sure we drink plenty of water on the record? Ahead, dietitians give their best advice on how to stay hydrated. Step 1: Grab your reusable water bottle and let’s dive into hydration 101.
How much water should we Truly drink every day?
It’s a story as old as time that most of us have rooted: drinking eight glasses of water a day. It turns out that the age-old myth of eight glasses a day stems from a 1945 recommendation by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council that suggested adults consume approximately 64 ounces of water per day, including all of their food and drink, which is misinterpreted as eight cups of water. Translation: that old-school rule is apparently not rooted in science.
Based on new research, our water needs are personalized and depend on factors such as age, gender, size, levels of physical activity and the climate where you live. If you’re looking for a baseline, Mallinson said the rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water. “For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink at least 70 ounces of water every day. Most people tend to need more, especially if you struggle with constipation, eat a diet high in processed foods, live in warmer climates, or are physically active.
Pro tip: Listen to your thirst cues to prevent dehydration, and pay attention to the color of your urine as an indicator of hydration. “Pale yellow urine generally indicates proper hydration, while dark yellow or amber colored urine can suggest dehydration,” said Taylor Osbaldeston, a registered holistic nutritionist for Durand Health Group. “Aim for the lightest-colored urine as a guide to maintaining adequate hydration.” While urine isn’t the sexiest topic, it’s kind of interesting how your body is always telling you what it needs, huh?
Expert-backed tricks for optimal hydration:
1. Always keep a reusable water bottle on hand
While this may seem like an obvious gimmick, Bianca Tamburello, RDN, a registered dietitian for FRESH Communications and Azuluna Foods, said investing in a bottle of water that will excite and motivate you can make or break your hydration goals. “Should it be insulated, include a straw, or fit in your car’s cup holder? Think about what your perfect water bottle should look like and choose your favourite. Having water readily available at all times, whether you’re at your desk or out and about, will serve as a gentle nudge to drink consistently.
2. Plan your water intake
Start your day with a glass of water (yes, before your cup of joe). And if you’re in the mood to up the ante, add some lemon to boost digestion (think: get things moving). It doesn’t hurt that the citrus drink adds a little pizazz to plain water, not to mention support glowing skin.
Once you’ve given your body a hydration boost first thing in the morning, set small goals for drinking a defined amount of water and schedule regular hydration breaks throughout the day. “Use reminders or smartphone apps to set regular intervals for water consumption, aiming for an hourly goal,” Osbaldeston suggested. “Split your total water intake goal evenly throughout your waking hours to ensure consistent hydration throughout the day. This approach helps you stay on track and maintain a consistent water intake. Consider apps like Waterlogged or WaterMinder your accountability partner who can help you set goals, send you friendly reminders, and track your daily intake.
3. Incorporate water-rich foods into your diet
While H2O is an ideal choice to meet your daily hydration needs, there are foods that are high in water that you can also reach for to give yourself a head start. Your body typically gets about 20% of the water it needs from the foods you eat throughout the day, with the remaining 80% usually coming from drinking. In other words, don’t skimp on that 20%. “Foods with the highest water content include cucumbers, lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, zucchini and strawberries,” Mallinson indicated. Throw together a veggie stir-fry or blend a fruit and veggie smoothie for extra hydration. Foods high in water can’t replace drinking water entirely, but adding them to the mix is a surefire way to give your body vitamins, minerals and fiber while boosting your daily water intake (that’s a lot of money for your dollar!) .
4. Add electrolytes and flavor to your water
Water alone cannot lead to optimal hydration. The body requires electrolytes to actually absorb water. “Amp up your hydration with electrolytes,” Mallinson prescribed. “Minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium help bring hydration into cells.” Osbaldeston is also a fan of the supplement: “Add electrolytes to your water to replenish essential minerals lost through perspiration and help maintain proper hydration levels during exercise or warm weather.” Instead of gulping down water with sugary additives (looking at you, #WaterTok), add flavor to your water by optimizing hydration with electrolyte packs (watch out for sugary options with lots of additives), or for a (practically) free version, add a pinch of sea salt in your water.
5. Habit accumulate water consumption
ICYMI, habit accumulation is THE way to go to create a new, healthy habit. If you want to introduce a new behavior into your routine, stack it on top of an activity you already do to help remind yourself to do it, making it a more automatic habit. For example, group drinking water with your other to-dos, like drinking a glass while you’re making your morning latte or grabbing a bottle of water on your afternoon walk.
Another way to get used to hydration is to combine a glass of water with meals. “Always be sure to drink a glass of water with your meal,” Tamburello advised. “Drinking water helps slow the pace of eating during a meal and aids in digestion.” Side note: If drinking liquids with food makes you feel bloated or has other unwanted side effects, continue drinking them before or between meals.
6. Romanticize the hydration experience
Let’s be real: Still water isn’t exactly thrilling, but who says repelling water has to be boring? Sip still or sparkling water from a wine glass and add fruit ice cubes to make for an indulgent experience, the Tamburello. Freezing fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, citrus slices and cucumbers, or refreshments, such as juice, tea or coffee, in ice cubes can take your mundane cup of water away from womp womp TO huzzah! And, if you’re feeling extra, use ice cube trays of various shapes, like roses, hearts, or fruits. Since we prioritize drinking more water, we might as well make it stylish.
By the way, you don’t have to be stuck on just waterrotate in other hydrating beverages like decaffeinated herbal tea, coconut water, or bone broth. Tambourine recommends bone broth as it hydrates and offers important electrolytes to replenish stores of calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium. The point is to make hydration something you look forward to so you can keep up with the habit.
7. Offset your caffeine and alcohol intake
Remember how hydration needs vary from person to person? They can also vary from day to day, depending on what else you consume. Some foods and drinks are hydrating (veggies and fruits, decaffeinated tea, etc.) but others are demoisturizing. “Both caffeine and alcohol have diuretic properties, which can increase urine output and contribute to fluid loss,” Osbaldeston said. “If you consume these beverages, consider compensating by increasing your water intake to counteract their potential dehydrating effects.” On the days you partake in the enjoyment of alcohol or caffeine, don’t worry, just be careful about getting some extra hydration. You know the drill: After savoring your afternoon Starbucks pick-me-up, follow it up with a full glass of water to balance it out.
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