Updated: Aug 21
You already know staying hydrated is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You also know there's a better way to stay hydrated that doesn't involve chugging gallons of water daily.
When hydrated, you feel more energized, focused, and strong. It also aids in the body's ability to perform involuntary functions like regulating blood pressure, digestion, and heart rate. So how do we keep our bodies and minds running efficiently in a more satisfying way?
Gaining all the benefits of a well-hydrated body and a clear mind is simple when you keep your fridge and pantry stocked accordingly. In this article, we will provide tips on how much, when, and what to drink so you can feel your best.
How Much You Drink
By now, most everyone knows it's best to aim for 8-12 cups of water or other liquids per day, but what this rule of thumb fails to clarify is how to budget fluid intake and counteract things that may cause us to dehydrate faster.
A person sticking to just 8 cups a day that exerts a lot of physical effort through work or exercise each day is also likely to find themself feeling dehydrated because they did not account for the extra water lost through sweat. Physical exertion will also impact when we hydrate, which will be covered in the next section.
It may come as a surprise, but where you live and the season will also determine hydration. How dry, windy, or hot the climate is will definitely impact how much moisture is pulled from the skin and breath compared to cooler or more humid climates. Altitude will also affect hydration, similar to how it impacts blood oxygen levels and other body functions, so use extra caution when traveling to places of different altitudes.
Your diet is the next thing to consider when determining how much fluid is best for your body. Are you eating a lot of sodium or carbohydrate-rich foods? If so, your body will crave extra liquids that may also contribute to bloat. Maintaining a more balanced diet can actually help aid in hydration. More on that later.
So when determining how much fluid you need to stay hydrated, look at your physical rigor, the weather where you are, and what's on the menu. Depending on your mix of these elements, you may need to adjust when you're hydrating for optimal benefit.
When You Drink
It's always a great idea to jump-start your system after a good night's rest with a refreshing glass of water first thing in the morning. Yes, before your coffee. This primes your body a little before the jolt of caffeine kicks in and also helps counteract the natural diuretic effects of the caffeine found in coffee.
I think it's a natural human thing to try to hack or cheat the system, but I caution against trying to do so when it comes to hydration. If a person chugged all ten glasses of water at once, it wouldn't have the same hydrating effect as taking in water throughout the day and could have potential risks like 'water intoxication.'
They would literally flood their system with water faster than the body needed it. Meaning the water would all be discarded in multiple back-to-back trips to the restroom. The best tip is to plan and space out your fluid intake to match your body's natural processing cycle. However, there is a time when front-loading extra liquid is a good thing.
When you know you have a long endurance exercise planned or know you'll be outside all day in the hot sun, it's a great idea to emphasize hydrating early. Once your body starts depleting hydration through sweat and muscle activity, it becomes a race to keep up with.
The body's nervous system is incredibly efficient in multitasking and using up internal resources much faster than we tend to replenish them. So hydrate early and often when physical rigor or environmental conditions demand it.
What You Drink
Yes, there is water in every type of beverage, but those drinks can have many other ingredients mixed in that might inhibit any hydrating benefits. Knowing the nutritional value of each type of beverage is very important not only for hydration but for healthier living in general.
Watch out for drinks touted or marketed as 'healthy'. If they're prepackaged, it's common to find a number of items on the ingredients list that are not so great for hydration. Some specific ingredients to watch out for are added sugars by another name, like dextrose, sucralose, or turbinado. The same is true but less common for caffeine. I am definitely guilty of extra caffeine in the form of dark chocolate. Luckily it's a relatively small dose. Yep, caffeine isn't limited to beverages; it can be found in foods too.
Alcohol is another large beverage category with major dehydrating traits. The alcohol found in beer, wine, and cocktails is a natural diuretic, meaning it encourages the body to release more water through urination - making it harder to stay hydrated. In addition to being diuretic, drinks containing alcohol are likely to also have excessive amounts of sugar or caffeine that will compound the dehydrating effects of alcohol on its own.
Not all teas, fruit juices, or hydrating supplements are made with your specific needs in mind. So make sure to double-check the label and ingredient list to make choices better suited to your dietary needs.
Refreshing Hydrating Drinks Other Than Water
Below is a list of beverages linked for your convenience that may earn our site a commission at no additional cost to you if purchased. These are just ideas. Please use your best judgment, or consult your healthcare provider, when selecting the items that will best suit your dietary needs.
True Citrus Lemon or Lime
Homemade or store-bought, check that your tea is low in or free of sugar, and be mindful of caffeine content.
I cannot get enough home-brewed sun tea in the summer. It's one of those drinks I look forward to all year.
Celestial Seasons Raspberry Zinger or Tension Tamer are go-to favorites
Tazo Herbal Passion Tea is super refreshing and is often a go-to Starbucks drink, sans classic, during summer. But you can also brew this tea at home and enjoy it hot or iced.
Bigelow Herbal I love Lemon or Blackberry Citrus tea are always in my pantry.
I will typically cut all my fruit juices with water or enjoy them in single-serving portions as the calories and sugars can add up. However, since the sugars in these juices are all naturally occurring, it's not quite as detrimental as added sugars in sodas or other drinks.
Langers 5 Calorie Cranberry Juice - though it does have sucralose listed as an ingredient, this is the best-tasting low-calorie juice I have found. It also doesn't contain other fruit or vegetable juices for flavor or sweetness, so it retains a strong cranberry taste. I usually mix mine with a little water and a splash of lemon juice.
No sugar added orange juice
Fruit infused water
These items probably wont be available in stores, but they are very simple to make at home.
Try using the juice from fruit you've just cut up or by purchasing 100% no sugar added juice and adding it to ice cube trays to use later. You can always mix the fresh juice right in too.
Fresh lemon or lime slices
Watermelon Juice Ice Cubes
Pineapple Juice Ice Cubes
Additional Ways to Support Hydration
Eat more fruits and vegetables! Fruits and vegetables are high in water content, so they can help to keep you hydrated while providing essential vitamins and minerals. The vitamins and minerals found in fruits and veggies are often in the form of electrolytes which help the body regulate and retain water. This is why eating a balanced diet of fruits and veggies is so vital for nutrition. They check so many beneficial boxes all at once.
Dairy products are another food group with surprising hydrating effects on the body. The secret ingredient found in some dairy products is a protein called albumin which is vital in body fluid regulation. But be cautious; consuming dairy can be a slippery slope. Stick to low-fat options and watch out for high-fat, cholesterol, or sodium options. Some safe picks include low-fat plain yogurt, cottage cheese, or 2% milk. The best part is that these dairy picks are also on the electrolyte-rich food list too!
Hydrating your body is essential for many aspects of physical health and overall wellness. It's worth taking the time to know what you're consuming to ensure you're giving your body what it really needs and avoiding the things that may negatively impact your hydration.
It's best to emphasize hydration early and often by consuming refreshing hydrating drinks. Some great options include electrolyte powder, iced tea, herbal teas, and fruit juices, or eating plenty of fruits and veggies.
Being mindful of your own individual hydration needs will help you feel more energized, focused, and strong throughout the day. Stay happy and healthy out there!