Hydration |

How to Stay Hydrated (Without Trying)

FACT: most of us are chronically dehydrated. In fact, anytime you feel thirsty, it’s already too late. Symptoms like brain fog, headaches, and reduced physical performance could already be affecting you without even knowing it. So the question is, how do you stay hydrated? The key is to get plenty of fluids and electrolytes, and if you can do it without changing your entire routine, all the better. This article is the lazy-person’s guide for how to stay hydrated (without trying):

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How to Stay Hydrated (Without Trying)

What Is Hydration? What is Dehydration?

Your body is 60 percent water, give or take. Hydration is the process of keeping it that way.

Dehydration occurs when you lose too much water, too many electrolytes or both.

The (Massive) Importance of Hydration

According to The Harvard Medicine School of Public Health, drinking enough water and replenishing your electrolytes is crucial for several reasons (1)... Proper hydration:

  • Lubricates the joints
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Delivers nutrients to cells
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Supports organ function
  • Improves sleep
  • Boosts cognition
  • Stabilizes mood

How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?

One of the most common questions people ask is, “How much water should I drink each day?” Unfortunately, there isn’t a super straightforward answer to this. One way to look at it is to drink between 25 and 50 percent of your body weight in ounces of water each day. That means if you weigh 180 pounds, you should shoot for between 45 to 90 ounces. Other experts recommend roughly 11 cups a day for women and 18 cups a day for men (2).

Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be...

The truth is—how much water should I be drinking a day—isn’t the best way to determine how much water your body needs. After all, hydration is just as much about electrolytes as it is about water. Plus, there are other factors to consider, like exercise and climate, that influence how quickly you need to replenish fluids and nutrients. According to recent research, “Under normal circumstances of diet, exercise and climate the minimal urine output for healthy subjects is about 500 ml/day.” (3) This helps the body detox, prevents kidney stones and supports healthy digestion. Losing too much water in too short a time can lead to electrolyte imbalances and symptoms of dehydration.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Thirsty much? Believe it or not, thirst is the most well-known sign of dehydration. If you thought the body would have an earlier warning sign, it doesn’t. That means it’s up to you to stay ahead of the game.

Other early signs of dehydration

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry skin

Are you seeing a pattern here? At the same time, over-sweating is your body’s way of telling you that you’re expending energy and losing electrolytes. On the flipside, under-sweating in hot conditions is a sign of heat exhaustion, so is getting the chills when you should actually feel hot AF. Headaches and nausea are common symptoms of dehydration too. Other lesser known indications include low motivation and increased heart rate.

Long-term side effects of dehydration

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of detoxification
  • Weakened immunity
  • Brain fog

That’s why it’s so important to stay hydrated. It doesn’t take long before dehydration starts chipping away at your productivity. Not long ago, scientists thought that only serious dehydration affected brain performance. However, researchers at The Virginia Polytechnic Institute studied the effects of hydration on brain health (4). They found that even mild dehydration—losing as little as 1 to 2 percent of your body’s fluid—can decrease cognitive performance. Keep in mind that dehydration looks different for everyone. You might have some, all, or none of these symptoms and still be low on fluids and electrolytes.

How to Stay Hydrated (Like a Boss)

The fact is, most people have a hard time drinking enough plain water every day. If that was the only way to stay hydrated, you’d be in trouble. Fortunately, it's not. There are plenty of other ways to stock up on fluids and electrolytes. Here’s how to stay hydrated (without trying):

1. The Many Sources of “Water”

Although the main goal of staying hydrated is to get more fluids, drinking plain water isn’t the only way. Other beverages contain water too. In fact, you probably already get some of your daily fluid needs from your diet. Broth-based soup, for example, counts towards your daily fluid intake. Other healthy beverages include:

  • Herbal tea
  • Juice
  • Milk

Keep in mind that at least half of your fluid intake should still come from plain or lightly-flavored water. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try flavoring it up with a little lemon juice. Still struggling to drink enough fluids? You can always try eating them instead...

2. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Step #2 of how to stay hydrated (without trying) is to get more fruits and veggies into your diet. Fruits and vegetables solve two problems at once: They (A) contain a ton of water and (B) are loaded with electrolytes. Whether you’re on a vegan, keto, or Paleo diet, there’s always a type of produce that fits into your diet. Cucumbers and celery, for example, are so low in sugar that they even work great with high-fat diets. Of course, if you're on a 100 percent carnivore diet, then fruits and veggies won’t work. In that case, an electrolyte supplement is the best way to go, but more on that in a sec… Eating a combo of fruits and vegetables is especially effective for keeping children hydrated.

For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed the diet and urine samples of 442 schoolchildren (5). Researchers found that diets high in fruits and veggies led to relatively improved hydration. Some of the most hydrating foods include:

  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Watermelon
  • Carrots
  • Kiwi
  • Citrus fruits
  • Pineapple
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

These fruits and vegetables contain a balanced profile of electrolytes like potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium along with plenty of water.

3. Take Electrolytes

ELECTROLYTES + WATER = HYDRATION

It’s a simple formula with a lot of research behind it. The easiest way to stay hydrated is to squeeze a tasteless electrolyte solution into the beverages you’re already drinking. Poof! Instant hydration.

In a recent study, the University of Montana compared the effects of plain water vs. an electrolyte-enhanced solution on 16 firefighters. Wildland firefighters face some of the most extreme dehydrating conditions around, so if it works for them, it should work for you. Researchers found that adding electrolytes to plain water greatly decreased fluid consumption. They concluded that “Supplementing water with electrolytes can reduce the amount of fluid necessary to consume and transport during activity. This can minimize carrying excessive weight, possibly reducing fatigue during extended exercise” (6).

Electrolyte supplements can also speed exercise recovery and prevent symptoms of dehydration like diarrhea and vomiting. The only potential downside is that many electrolyte brands contain some sort of sweetener, like dextrose or sucralose, which are generally bad for health. However, other solutions, like Buoy, are sweetener-free and gut-friendly. In addition to alkalizing the body, research shows that the sodium and potassium in non-processed salt (like that found in Buoy) can enhance hydration (7).

4. Avoid Dehydrating Foods

Why do Americans hate to drink water and love to eat dehydrating foods? Because we’re used to adding sweetness and sodium to everything. But high levels of sugar has led to a lot of dietary problems beyond just an aversion to water. Sugar has negative metabolic effects, increases inflammation and weakens the gut lining. Most sodas and sports drinks, even ones advertised to support hydration, may actually be unhealthy. Even “vitamin waters” are overloaded with sugar and should be avoided.

At the same time, processed foods contain massive amounts of sodium. In balanced amounts, sodium is an essential mineral that’s necessary for hydration. However, excess sodium can cause electrolyte imbalances and elevate blood pressure. Sugar, processed table salt and sodium-heavy foods may seriously be messing with your hydration. According to nutritionists, the following foods are dehydrating you the most:

  • Alcohol: is a diuretic that increases fluid output. In fact, your hangover headaches often have more to do with basic dehydration than they do with any other effects of alcohol.
  • Cured meats: are high in protein, but they’re also way too high on sodium. This can throw your electrolytes entirely out of whack.
  • Sugary drinks: like soda and most sports drinks create an acidic environment. This triggers the body to expel fluids and dehydrates you.
  • Coffee and caffeinated tea: act as a diuretic similar to alcohol and can speed up dehydration.
  • Bread, pancakes and other baked goods: tend to be high in sodium because it is needed to prevent fermentation in the dough.
  • Canned foods: contain large amounts of high-sodium salt to prevent bacteria from growing. Always look for a “low-sodium” label when you’re buying canned goods.
  • Soy sauce and other condiments: are usually high in sugar and sodium. Cutting back on the condiments can help you stay hydrated.

5. Exercise

The fifth thing you need in order to stay hydrated is exercise. But doesn’t exercise make you sweat and lose water? Well, yes, but it also increases circulation, supports electrolyte production and gets more nutrients into the cells (8). The best forms of exercise to support hydration include:

  • Cardiovascular training
  • Weight training
  • Burst training
  • Running
  • Walking
  • Swimming

Ultimately, if you exercise, drink more fluids, eat hydrating foods, avoid dehydrating foods, and take electrolyte supplements, you should be able to stay on top of the hydration game.

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References:

  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-importance-of-hydration/
  2. http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2004/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-Water-Potassium-Sodium-Chloride-and-Sulfate.aspx
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20356431
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207053/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23966431
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18715125
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17091954/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11539751
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