Jul 13, 2023
Hydration is important to keeping your body working efficiently.
According to research, up to 60% of the human body is water. Water serves many purposes in the body, including temperature regulation, nutrient digestion, and transportation, delivery of oxygen throughout the body, flushing wastes out of the body, joint lubrication, and shock absorption for the brain and spinal cord. The human body cannot function without water.
Tips to help you stay hydrated
- Listen to your body. Drink water when you are thirsty.
- Choose water first. Craving a soda, juice, or other sugary beverage? Have an 8-oz glass of water first. Sometimes that craving is because you are thirsty. Give your body some water, and see if that helps. You can always have a less-healthy beverage afterward and may end up drinking less of it since you've already had some water.
- Fix sugar cravings with high-water-content fruit. Sweet tooth? Have a few berries or grapes or some sliced melon.
- Get a water bottle you like and will drink from. Some people like to track their water with a big bottle that can hold their whole day's quantity or a bottle or tumbler with movable trackers to help them stay motivated and on top of their intake. If you know you like to sip water, pick a bottle or tumbler with a straw. Sitting at a desk all day? Maybe you want a smaller water bottle that will need to be refilled at the water cooler a few times, giving you an excuse to get up and stretch. Decorate your water bottle if you like with stickers, or buy a bottle with a beautiful design. Or, if you don't like water bottles, find a cup or carafe set that will help make drinking water feel good.
- Drink throughout the day. Don't limit water to being something you drink only at certain times. It is much easier to get a good quantity of water in if you break it up into smaller amounts, sipping all day or drinking 2-to-4-oz at a time multiple times, rather than trying to drink full 8-to-16-oz glasses all at once.
- Get to know what 8-oz looks like. Many people do a poor job of estimating how much they are drinking (and eating, but that's not what we're talking about today). People often overestimate the amount of water they had and underestimate the amount of less-healthy beverages. Measure 8 oz and pour it into your favorite cup, then take a mental picture. Use that to help you guesstimate your intake.
- Add flavor to your water. Squeezing some lemon or lime into your water can help brighten it up. Slices of cucumber or berries can infuse a little flavor as well. Mint or basil, in combination with a little fruit, can turn boring water into something special. There are also retail products, but use caution and understand what ingredients are in them. Sugar-free drink enhancers sometimes contain alternative sweeteners that some people are sensitive to, which can cause headaches and intestinal distress. If you do use a retail drink enhancer, make sure you are following the directions.
- If you are really unsure of your fluid intake, consider keeping a diary and measuring how much water and other drinks you consume and when. Keeping food and drink diaries can give you insight not only into the amount you are consuming but the timing and factors that might be affecting your choices (such as feeling tired, stressed, or overwhelmed).
How much water do you really need?
Almost everyone has heard that you should drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day, but where does that number come from? It is a very generalized average, as individual needs vary depending on age, height, weight, activity level, other health conditions, and other factors that affect your body's use and need for water.
Excess sweating (for example, from physical effort or very high temperatures) and illness can cause you to lose more water than you normally would through the natural processes of urination, defecation, and normal sweating. Problems affecting your bowels can disrupt the normal reabsorption of water that occurs, leading to loose stools and increased water loss. Decreased fluid intake and/or excess water loss can lead to dehydration, causing headaches, potential dizziness or inability to concentrate, poor mood, and problems with digestion. Severe dehydration risks damage to your kidney or heart and even potentially death.
While 8 cups is a good ballpark, you should monitor your hydration needs through thirst, urine volume and color, and activity level. Drink water when you feel thirsty, especially in warmer temperatures. If you notice you are urinating less frequently or in smaller amounts than normal, or if the color of your urine isn't pale yellow, you may need more water. If you are doing more than normal physical activity, you may need some extra fluid intake.
Another way some people estimate their fluid needs is by taking half their weight in pounds and trying to drink that many ounces of water. This helps to account for the fact that bigger bodies will need more water than smaller bodies.
How much water you need is very individual and depends on a variety of factors. If you have other medical conditions such as kidney or heart disease, you may have fluid restrictions due to the difficulty of your body to handle fluids. If you are pregnant or nursing, you will need more water to help support fetal development and milk production in addition to your normal bodily functions. It is always a good idea to consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have concerns about your water intake.
Sources of water
We get most of our water from drinking, but a percentage comes from the foods we eat. Eating foods with a higher percentage of water can help when you struggle to drink enough throughout the day.
Give yourself grace
Remember that no one is perfect. You are not going to get the exact right amount of water every day. Tomorrow is another day and another chance to do better. Building healthy habits takes time. Small changes add up to a big impact. Just like drinking water is easier if you add up small sips, making changes to your habits is easier if those changes are small and incremental. Take it step by step, day by day. Break your goals into smaller, more manageable mini-goals. You can do it!