The Ultimate Guide to Hydration
And Why Hydration Matters!
We all know that staying hydrated is important, and we probably know the basic reasons as to why.
But when you dig into the science behind hydration, and the plethora of life benefits that it provides to nearly every little thing you do, then it just might inspire you to drink that extra bottle of water today.
Because the thing about hydration is that, with just a little bit of effort and some strategies that we are going to outline for you, as well as explaining exactly what this science of hydration is, it isn't a hard box to check on your list of daily responsibilities, but it is a box that requires attention and dedication.
Hydration is more than just water, so let's get into exactly what it means to be properly hydrated and how you can achieve this daily with ease.
What is Hydration?
Before getting into how to hydrate properly, it's first important to know just what hydration really is.
Every single cell, tissue, and organ in the body requires H2O to function, and water facilitates all of our physiological functions.
Water is the driving force behind digestion, as the water helps to act as a solvent for the nutrients in our food, and as the water you drink continues through your digestive system, it is eventually absorbed in the small intestine.
Here the water can then travel through the rest of your body in your blood, so lots of water also means a healthy and hard-working blood supply that amplifies the rest of your whole health.
Your kidneys will then take this water-filled blood and wash out any waste products, which will be released during urination, and again the more water in your system the better your kidneys can function at washing out waste.
So the state of being hydrated is having enough hydrates in your body to take care of these functions with ease, and hydration can be summarized as the driving force behind:
- Regulating body temperature
- Keeping joints lubricated
- Preventing infections
- Boosting immunity
- Delivering nutrients to cells
- Keep organs functioning properly
- Muscle recovery
How much water do I need to Stay Hydrated?
The thing about hydration is that it is an endless cycle.
You have to consistently intake enough hydrates throughout your day, and this amount can vary based on your lifestyle.
Things like gender, weight, and activity levels all determine how much you need to be and stay hydrated.
And, as we will discuss more, hydration doesn't just come from water, so it's more than just an answer of how much water you should drink to stay hydrated each day.
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
It might seem like a lot, but notice the word ‘fluids’. This means that the hydration can come from other sources as well, including your food, to make for the total you see above.
And if you are an athlete, things are going to be a little bit different.
For athlete hydration, take your body weight and divide it by two. That number is the number in ounces of how much water you should drink each day as an active athlete.
Make sure to drink about 20 ounces four hours before your workout and 15-20 ounces during every hour that you workout. For after you workout, weigh how much bodyweight you have lost during activity and consume around 20 ounces for each of those pounds lost. To do this, simply step on a scale before and after you exercise to determine how many ounces.
So with all of this in mind, what are some of the best sources of hydration other than water so that hydration can be accomplished as an integrated part of your routine?
Other Sources of Hydration
As well as requiring H2O, hydration also requires electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge when dissolved into a liquid, in this case, your blood, and electrolytes regulate your nerve and muscle function, regulate your fluid and plasma levels, balance your body's PH, and help rebuild damaged tissues.
So aside from just water, it is also important to ensure that you are getting enough of these nutrients as well for ample hydration.
Some of the best liquid sources of hydration other than water include:
- Coconut water- coconut water is a great source of potassium
- Milk or nut milk- dairy milk contains tons of calcium, an electrolyte, as do some nut milk dairy replacements
- Sports drinks- sports drinks are created for athlete hydration and often include exactly the vitamins and minerals you need when working out and for hydration in general. Just try and avoid sports drinks that are high in sugars and processed ingredients.
- Electrolyte water- a simple addition of the electrolytes you need added to water, tasteless and easy to drink.
And for the best sources of hydration that can come for your food, think to incorporate the following into your daily diet!
- Bananas- contains high amounts of potassium.
- Yogurt- yogurt is an excellent source of calcium.
- Watermelon- watermelon contains a little bit of natural sugar, potassium, and most importantly, water, for a snack that is seriously hydrating.
- Avocados- you might not think about avocados when you think about hydration, but a little avocado toast in the morning will ensure you have plenty of potassium for ample hydration.
- Spinach- the power vegetable!
- All other fruits- generally speaking, all other fruits contain a nice degree of water and light, natural sugar that is beneficial for hydration.
If you eat a lot of these foods, and if you get tired of the taste of water, it is still really easy to hit your hydration intake goal for the day, but you do have to try!
It can be all too alluring to head right for the sugary sodas, so as well as providing you with the amount of water you need for hydration and the best outside sources of hydration, we're also going to showcase what to avoid to help you stay hydrated.
What Not to do to Stay Hydrated
Just as there are things you can and must do to stay hydrated, there are those that you should not do. Let's get into exactly what those are.
1. Eat Sugar!
Sugar is hydration's worst enemy, as sugar clogs the blood that water aims to make flow freely, so to improve your hydration do your best to avoid high amounts of sugar.
Never, ever think that soda is going to hydrate you!
2. Consume Caffeine
Just as sugar slows and reduces the effectiveness of the hydration process, so does caffeine. And usually, most caffeinated drinks also contain a lot of sugar, so do your best to shed away high amounts of caffeine from your diet, and try drinking a glass of water instead of your second cup of coffee.
3. Eat Salty Snacks
Salt makes your kidneys pull water from places within your body that need it, helping to lead to dehydration if not balanced out with plenty of fresh water, so the less salty snacks the better!
4. Drink Alcohol
If water is your blood's best friend, alcohol is like its biggest bully. Alcohol makes you need to drink more water just to get back to the state of being hydrated, and if you consistently drink alcohol you will need to up your water intake immensely.
Tips for Ample Hydration
Now that you know what not to do to help you stay hydrated throughout the day, let's get into techniques that you should do to help you reach and stay at your ample hydration level.
- Use Reusable Water Bottles
Aside from just the positive impact on the environment, using a reusable water bottle will help you to easily track how much water you drink each day. Once you know exactly how much water your bottle contains, you can set a daily goal for the number you wish to drink and re-fill your way up until you are there!
2. Use Carb Alternatives
Try and ditch some of your favorite high-carb foods for some vegetable alternatives. Pasta, for example, can be traded out for zucchini noodles, as the vegetables will contain much higher amounts of water than do the bready carbs, sometimes being up to 95% water!
3. Flavor the Water
Water doesn't have to be tasteless.
All it takes is a couple of drops of your favorite water flavor drops and your tastebuds can have some fun, making water more enticing to drink than before.
4. Sparkling Water for Soda
A real glass of water will always, always be better than a soda, and it will still always be better than sparkling water as well.
But that being said, sparkling water will always be more hydrating than a soda, as it contains more water and less, usually no, sugar. If you are having trouble ditching the sodas from your diet, start by transitioning to sparkling water first for a little help on the cravings!
5. Track Your Water Intake
If you are purposeful about tracking how much water you drink, then this will help you to not only know the times at which you are fully hydrated, but will also help hint at when you might be in danger of dehydration.
There's a ton of cool hydration trackers and apps out there, so just do a little research and download one that works for you so that you can track, and therefore visualize, your hydration so that this can act as a form of reminder and motivation.
Instead of that sugary dessert, why not go for something sweet that still helps you hydrate?
A little bit of frozen fruit is exactly how you can scratch the itch for sugar and sweet whilst also benefiting your body through the hydration that fruit provides.
7. Morning Smoothies
A smoothie not only requires a cup of two of water and/or milk to make, as well as ice, but the fruits and vegetables used within are also extremely hydration.
For a light snack that provides you serious energy, vitamins, and minerals essential for hydration, and one of the best sources of hydration, try making and sipping on a daily smoothie!
8. The morning Gulp
Before you do anything, especially before you drink your first cup of coffee, just to set hydration on the right track and to jolt your energy levels, start your morning by chugging a big glass of water before doing anything else.
9. Dress for the Weather
The more you sweat the more you need to hydrate, so plan your outfits accordingly! If you are planning on high activity or if the weather is calling for hot sunshine, make sure that you dress in light and comfortable clothing to help with your hydration.
10. Know when to Spot Dehydration
If you suffer from any of the signs below, know that it might be a sign that you are dehydrated and begin doing all you can to hydrate.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Darker-than-usual urine
- Not urinating despite steadily drinking water
- Muscle cramps
- Bad breath
- Fever or chills
- Craving sweets
- Dry mouth/skin
- Fast heartbeat
The best thing you can do when it comes to dehydration is to stop it before it becomes bad, so if any of those symptoms appear, always think that a lack of water could be the driving cause.
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