It’s all too often that people fall short of their daily water intake, resulting in dehydration. In fact, in a study examining 2,000 people from the US, it was found that only 22 percent of participants drank the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) recommended amount of water a day. This is unfortunate since you need to stay hydrated to function optimally.
That said, while it may seem like a simple task, staying hydrated is easier said than done. Sometimes you can get carried away with day-to-day activities and forget to reach for the water bottle. Luckily, there are habits you can incorporate into your daily routine in order to keep yourself hydrated and healthy.
In this article I cover why hydration is important in the first place, typical hydration goals, top benefits, and four tips about how to stay hydrated throughout the day.
The Importance of Hydration
Hydration is key for a functioning body. Drinking water helps us regulate our body temperature while achieving quality sleep. In contrast, negative symptoms that occur from dehydration include headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, muscle cramps, fatigue and dry skin.
We all know that our bodies are more than 60 percent water. The fluids in our body are based on water and normally we have mechanisms that preserve a healthy fluid and electrolyte balance. Sometimes these mechanisms can fail due to exercise, illness, stress, lack of sleep, food, or climate changes. The resulting imbalances can become life-threatening. We then speak of dehydration. Very strong cases of dehydration can lead to vomiting, muscle spasms, vision problems, loss of consciousness, kidney or liver failure.
Having the right water levels in our bodies has a range of different benefits: Apart from transporting electrolytes, minerals, vitamins, and proteins throughout the body, water regulates body temperature and helps catalyze chemical reactions in the body. It also speeds up the breakdown of food and helps absorption of nutrients. Finally, water lubricates our eyes, joints, spinal cord, and other areas of the body.
Be mindful of the signs of dehydration. In cases where you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, be sure to fix yourself a glass of water. Better yet, establish healthy hydration habits (like drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning as part of a morning routine) so that you don’t have to experience dehydration in the first place.
Daily Water Intake Goals
Optimal water intake varies from person to person. Some people need more water to function than others. Medical experts recommend that adult women consume about 11 cups of water for a total of 2.5 liters. For an adult man, it’s recommended that you consume about 16 cups of water for a total of 3.7 liters. However, this depends a lot on the exercise and activity level and the climate you live in.
If you don’t normally drink a lot of water, it can be difficult to reach your daily recommended intake right off the bat. However, if you make drinking water a convenient habit, you’ll start feeling more hydrated in no time.
Start off with smaller hydration goals. Maybe you make it a goal to drink a large cup of water once in the morning and once at night. Once you’ve established that habit, then add a habit of keeping a water bottle handy near your office space. That way, while you’re working, you can take intermittent swigs of water.
How do you know if you are dehydrated?
Well, one obvious way is when you feel thirsty. But often we don’t feel thirsty but we may still not be optimally hydrated. Hydration levels can be clinically tested. But you can make an easy self test too:
Too much skin elasticity or turgor can be a sign of dehydration. To check, pinch a fold of your skin on the back of your hand. If the skin returns to its original shape especially slow (called tenting), then you are most likely dehydrated.
3 Benefits of Consistent Hydration
When you’re consistent about staying hydrated, you will start to feel better both physically and mentally. After all, research shows that dehydration impacts psychomotor and memory skills while impairing cognitive performance. This means that consistent hydration equates to better mental and physical function.
Some other benefits of staying hydrated include:
1. Better Workout Performance
While it’s important to drink water for everyone, it’s particularly important for athletes or really anyone who is fairly serious about sports and exercise. Sometimes, during athletic events, athletes can lose anywhere between 6-10% of their body weight through sweating. This deficiency in water can lead to worse physical performance. It only makes sense, then, that if you’re mindful about staying hydrated before and during a workout, your physical performance will improve.
To stay hydrated, drink about 8 ounces (0.25 liters) of water 30 minutes before exercise. Then, during your workout, make sure to take water breaks approximately once every 20 minutes. Drinking water is best, but for an extra boost of energy and if you prefer drinking sports drinks make sure to choose options with extra electrolytes but with lower sodium and sugar levels.
2. Improved Mental Health
As we mentioned before, water is an important component needed for our brains to function. It’s no secret that dehydration can lead to feelings of brain fog and fatigue. Additionally, a recent study found that test subjects who drank more water had a decreased risk of depression and anxiety compared to those who drank less. This shows that consuming water can lead to improved mental health.
Drinking water can also just put you in a better mood in general. In a 2015 study, for example, 120 female college students were recruited to record everything they drank and ate for five days while filling out mood questionnaires. The results showed that the more water a subject drank, the better their mood. So next time you find yourself feeling down in the dumps, consider drinking a tall glass of water.
3. Healthier Skin
One of the best ways to maintain healthy skin is by staying hydrated. When you drink appropriate amounts of water, it leads to increased blood flow to your skin. Studies also show that dry skin can result in oil production that then contributes to acne. This means that keeping your skin hydrated is important in order to keep your skin blemish-free.
4 Tips for Increased Hydration
If you want to reap the benefits of hydration, you need to make a consistent effort to consume more water. The best way to do this is by incorporating hydration into your daily routine. Here are some tips you can use to stay hydrated throughout the day:
1. Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
As soon as you wake up, drink a large glass of water. Sometimes the period of time when we’re sleeping can be the longest stretch of time we go without drinking any fluids. We lose a lot of water during sleep just by breathing. This can be up to one liter in adults. To make up for this, you may want to keep a glass or a bottle of water filled at your bedside. That way, when you wake up you can start your day off right with the fluids you need to function.
2. Track Your Hydration
A surefire way to increase your daily intake of water is to track your hydration. You can do this by using an app such as WaterMinder or Hydro Coach. Another way to track your hydration is by investing in a gallon water bottle (preferably with markers that measure how much water it contains). All you have to do is fill the water bottle according to your recommended daily intake. From there, try to finish the bottle’s contents by taking drinks regularly throughout the day.
Keep in mind that you will want to adjust your water intake according to your physical activity levels. If you’re going on jogs or walks around the neighborhood for example, you may want to drink a little more water before and after the exercise. Additionally, make sure that when you’re outdoors you regulate your body temperature with appropriate clothing such as a down jacket or a windbreaker.
3. Eat Water-Rich Foods
If it’s difficult for you to reach your daily water intake, add some water-rich foods to your diet. Real foods like watermelon, oranges, tomatoes and celery can add hydration and variety to each meal.
4. Add Some Flavor to Your Water
Sometimes it’s difficult to drink a lot of water, particularly if you’re accustomed to more flavorful soft drinks, which I am not a fan of at all and which you should remove from your diet anyway. A great way to make drinking water more fun is to add a spritz of flavor with fruits and vegetables. Here are some fun water recipes to keep you hydrated:
- Strawberry-basil water: Add strawberries, basil leaves and a bit of lemon to your water for a refreshing springtime drink.
- Cucumber lemonade: Mix cucumbers, lemon and mint leaves into your water and enjoy.
- Pear and ginger tea: Bring a cup of water to a simmer and add some pear, ginger and a dash of cinnamon for a relaxing tea.
- Soothing lemon water: For this recipe, bring a cup of water to a simmer and add lemon and honey. This drink is particularly good to warm yourself up during a cold winter night.
Water Is Life. Stay Hydrated!
Whether you’re wanting to improve your mood, cognitive function or performance in the gym, hydration is a must. Since your body mostly consists of water, it makes sense that the more optimally balanced your hydration is , the better you will function. By building daily habits to keep yourself hydrated, you can move one step closer toward living a healthier and happier life.
I am adding an infographic that summarizes top hydration hacks to keep you fueled for any season below this article.
If you need help in figuring out what are your personal ideal hydration levels and how to form habits that help you stay hydrated, head over to my Build Bullet-Proof Health program. Building healthy habits that you can consistently stick to for the rest of your life are at the core of this program.
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