Staying hydrated is so important to our overall longterm health and yet it can be over looked due to its simplicity. In a society where we are constantly looking for instant validation and fast solutions, delayed gratification and commiting to a process is not always the easiest thing to do. However, daily water consumption is necessary for effective human performance!
So why is it important to stay hydrated?
Let's start with the fact that up to 70% of the human body is comprised of water! That's right! Over half our body is water! Not drinking water is the same as not putting gasoline in a car. The car won't function without gasoline and we wont function without water!
How much water should we consume everyday?
According to precision nutrition, as a minimum, most people do well with 64 fl oz's which is about 8 glasses per day. This is just a starting point and other factors such as sweating, body size, climate, humidity, altitude, salty food, alcohol, hormones, life style and diet will play more of a factor as to how much water one should consume specifically. Water is also essential to smooth digestion and excretion, oxygen flow throughout the body (including the brain), temperature regulation, and tissue and joint lubrication. It has gotten much easier to track water intake today with marked containers which allow us to know specifically how much we are drinking. Most water bottles we see in gas stations are 16.9 fl oz's. If you go to the grocery store or look on amazon, you can find contaienrs that will hold 32oz's, 64oz's and all the way up to a gallon of water which is 128 fl oz's. For this reason, it makes it much easier to track our water consumption compared to tracking food as we do not have to weigh our water. Simply fill up a container, sip on water throughout the day and you can easily hit whatever targets you are setting for yourself.
However, for those of us who have not been intentional with our water intake and are just starting out, what are some other ways to know if you are getting enough water? The practice of tuning into both our internal and external cues is super important and are great ways to recognize if you are drinking to much or to little. Somethings to watch out for if you consume to little water during the day are feeling unsatisfied or unfull, lack muscle coordination and balance, experience brain fog or slow thinking, feel sluggish or fatigued, and not recovering effciently from physical activity. Conversely, if we consume to much water, we may feel overfull and bloated or urinate a lot which would be more than 6-8 times per day!
So how do we know if we are consuming just the right amount for us?
As we go through our day we will feel satisfied from our meals, have sustained energy all day, experience sustained energy during long physical activity, we will be clear headed, and we will be well recovered from our workouts. The most reliable external guideline that indicates our body's current hydration is our urine color. However, some foods, medications, and supplements can impact the color of our urine and this would not be indicative of our hydration but a byproduct of our diet. Also, by the time you are assessing your urine color, you may already be experiencing the effects of dehydration. In terms of a whole daily diet, hydration comes in many forms so drinking pure water is not the only way we can contribute to our daily hydration efforts. Hydration also comes from coffee, tea, dairy milk and nut milk. And some water is in every beverage that you drink, and even in many foods that you eat (especially water-rich fruits and vegetables).
Again, for those looking to make this a habit and are starting out, here are some practical ideas for you to be intentional with staying hydrated during the day. This may seem like common sense, but drinking when thirsty! If we are busy during our work day, many of us may recognize we are feeling thirsty but ignore those signals to keep working. Let's not do this and acknowledge when we feel thirsty by actually drinking and even taking a few extra sips in addition to what we think we need. Drinking a glass of water with every meal that we have is another way to ensure we are consuming enough water during the day. Set up your environment for hydration success! Leave a glass of water next to your bed or by your workstation. Each time you walk by, take a few sips! Setting up your environment in this way helps to trigger when to drink to be consistent with hydrating during the day. Something else to consider is the diference between hunger and thirst cues. A lot of times when we think we are feeling hungry, we are actually just thirsty. Next time you feel hungry, take a few sips of water first and see if that helps with the sensations you are experiencing. If you still feel hungry after sipping water, you can feel confident that those are hunger cues that your body is giving you. Again, this is also just a great way to let your body trigger you to consume more water.
There is a principle known as the S.A.I.D principle which means (specific adaptations, imposed demands). In short, whatever I do to my body biologically, ususally when exercising, my body will adapt to. This is not the case with hydration! I can't force myself to go longer periods of time without water and adapt to that. Whatever fluids I lose, I must replace. Especially for those of us who might exercise to the extremes and lose lots of water during the day, in addition to just replacing the water we lose, we also need to replace electrolytes. Electrolytes are salts such as sodium and potassium. Sodium will support us with water retention which helps to maintain blood pressure and electrolyte balance, and allows organs, muscles and nerves to work properly. Conversely, if we are not sweating a bunch or exerting ourselves physically but are drinking enormous amounts of water too quickly (in the neighborhood of 2-3 L per hour for a few hours), without replacing electrolyte/minerals properly, can lead to electrolyte imbalances in our body. Three simple ways to get your electrolytes into your diet are to salt your food, If you're drinking a lot of water, make sure you're also consuming electrolytes along with it. You can choose sports drinks with electrolytes included, or look in your local drugstore for a lower-calorie powder such as Pedialyte, which is designed for fluid and electrolyte replenishment, and lastly, Try natural mineral waters, such as San Pellegrino or Gerolsteiner. These have dissolved minerals in them already, and are also a nice substitute for soda.
I threw a lot at you here but I would encourage you to implement what you like and leave the rest! I would love to hear your thoughts or what steps you're currently taking to get more water into your day!