Hydration Know-How from multysite Dietitian Kate Giere, RDN, LDN
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I don’t drink enough water”? If so, you’re not alone – many of us feel like we can do a better job hydrating our bodies. And since water makes up about 60% of our total body weight, it is an important consideration. Water helps to keep our internal temperature stable and helps transport oxygen throughout the body. However, hydration needs differ based on several factors – age, gender, activity level, environmental temperature, and humidity levels. As a general rule of thumb, men need about 13 cups (104 oz.) of fluids daily and women need about 9 cups (72 oz.).
What counts as “fluids”?
The good news is we can consume these fluids in our beverages and foods. Many foods, especially fruits and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, cucumber, and lettuce, can contain up to 90% water. Our food intake typically accounts for about 20% of our daily water intake. Additionally, although caffeinated beverages should not make up a major portion, they can contribute toward your fluid goals.
What about sports drinks and coconut water?
Sports drinks and coconut water have electrolytes, which water does not. However, they typically also contain sugar and therefore calories. They may or may not also have artificial sweeteners, like sucralose or aspartame, added to them. Unless you are exercising for more than 60 minutes at a time, water is still best for hydration. As for those electrolytes, most people consume plenty of electrolytes in their food and do not need to supplement.
What about when I’m exercising?
When we exercise, our bodies produce sweat to help cool us down. Although this is a natural response, we lose fluids in the process. In order to replenish the water that you lose during exercise, make sure to hydrate before exercising, and try to drink 4-8oz of water every 15-20 minutes during your workout. Another way to measure hydration during exercise is to weigh yourself before and after exercising, then drink 3 cups of water for every pound of weight lost.
Is it possible to drink too much water?
Yes. It is possible to drink too much water, which throws off our bodies’ electrolyte balance and can be very dangerous. However, this is very uncommon and is usually only a concern for extreme athletes, like marathoners, who are frequently drinking large amounts of water. For the average American, this is not a concern.
How do I know if I’m hydrated?
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re drinking enough water so that you rarely feel thirsty throughout the day, and your urine is consistently a pale yellow color, you’re likely hydrated well. If your urine is dark yellow or apple juice-colored, reach for that glass of water! Other warning signs of dehydration can include irritability, fatigue, and even hunger (our bodies sometimes mistake dehydration for hunger).
Here are some tips to stay hydrated all day:
- Start your day with a glass of water with breakfast.
- Keep a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day. This will encourage you to drink all day long, even if you don’t feel thirsty. As you refill your bottle, keep track of the ounces you consume.
- If you’re tired of plain water, try a flavored sparkling water, infused water (with fruits, vegetables, and herbs), or add a splash of 100% fruit juice to your flat/sparkling water.