Let’s start by pushing aside the myth that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. There is no science behind this belief, even though, especially during the hot summer weather, you will frequently hear this repeated over and over. It is a fact, however, that in the summer months when the temperature rises, our perspiration increases. Every day, our bodies lose water naturally through the intestines, skin, lungs, and, of course, urine. Participating in physical activity increases perspiration even further, leading to water loss; therefore, proper hydration or replacement of water in our bodies is essential.
Benefits of Drinking Enough WaterHealth Line offers the following seven science-based health benefits of drinking enough water:
- Maximizes physical performance
- Positive effect on energy levels and brain function
- Prevents and treats headaches
- Relieves constipation
- Treats kidney stones
- Prevents hangovers
- Helps with weight loss
- Joint lubrication
- Formation of saliva and mucus
- Oxygen delivery throughout the body
- Boosts skin health and beauty
- Cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues
- Regulates body temperature
- Supports the digestive system
- Flushes body waste
- Helps maintain blood pressure
- Promotes healthy airways
- Makes minerals and nutrients accessible
How Do You Tell if You’re Dehydrated?According to research by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, more than 50 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. are not getting the hydration they need. This number, when it comes to adults, is only slightly better; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 43 percent of adults don’t drink enough water. If you’re thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. However, lack of thirst doesn’t necessarily mean you’re well hydrated. Here are two quick ways to check the state of your body’s hydration:
- Two finger skin pinch. In a matter of seconds, the skin should spring back to its normal position.
- Check your urine. When well-hydrated, your urine will be mostly clear with a tinge of yellow. If you see darker yellow or orange, the “warning” colors, start drinking fluids.
Still Not Sure?You might be surprised by the signs and symptoms of dehydration. John Higgins, MD, Professor of Medicine at The McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas, states that these could include:
- Bad breath caused by your body not making enough saliva
- Dry skin, which may even appear flushed
- Muscle cramps due to changes in electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium
- Fever and chills, where the higher the fever, the more dehydrated you may become
- Food cravings, especially for sweets
- Headaches can be caused by even mild dehydration
Looking Beyond Water – Seven Ways to Stay HydratedWhile you might think that staying hydrated simply means drinking more water, think again. There are at least seven ways to stay hydrated this summer, and all without even drinking water. These include:
- Eating fruit and vegetables which have a high water content.
- Feasting on summer fruit, which could contain up to 92 percent water. Just be aware that these are also high in natural sugars.
- Iced coffee, while sometimes being mildly diuretic, has been shown to not lead to dehydration. In fact, with a cup of coffee consisting of 98 percent water, it could be a valuable source of hydration.
- Avoid excess amounts of alcohol, which could lead to dehydration.
- Consume cold soup, especially if it contains vegetables with a high water content. Gazpacho, traditionally a cold Spanish soup, is a great chilled soup option.
- Start your day with an oatmeal breakfast that is especially beneficial with the addition of fresh fruit.
- Additional hydration options include potassium-rich coconut water and vegetable juices. Keep in mind that some fruits are loaded with natural sugars and are best eaten in their whole form including their fiber rather than as a juice.
Tips for Staying HydratedHere are some tips for ensuring the intake of all the fluids you need and avoiding dehydration:
- Keep a water bottle handy. “If it's right next to you, you'll likely get into the habit of sipping it without even realizing it,” says the nutrition expert and Everyday Health columnist Johannah Sakimura.
- Spice up plain water. Add a splash of fruit juice or chunks of fresh or frozen fruit or try naturally flavored calorie-free seltzers—their fizz and fruit flavor makes them more appealing.
- Try different unsweetened teas. These are available in a variety of flavors. Even a mug of hot peppermint or chamomile tea at night will count toward your daily fluid goal.
- Replace your dry snacks with fresh or frozen fruit, non-dairy yogurt, healthy smoothies, celery with peanut butter, and cut veggies with hummus.
- Pile on the produce. Strive to make half of every meal vegetables and fruit. Not only will this provide water, but you’ll also get a hearty dose of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Sip more during meals. Not only will this help you stay hydrated, but you will eat more slowly.
- How much you exercise you get
- The environment where you live (e.g., hot weather or high altitudes)
- Your general health
- Whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding