Fun Fact: The human body is about 60 percent water. Getting enough H20 is essential to your health for a variety of reasons. Water has an assortment of roles from providing energy for your muscles to keeping your skin looking healthy. No matter what time of year, it is important to stay on top of your hydration game. When you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to a multitude of scary health issues from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses, such as heat stroke. You lose water constantly from breathing, sweating, and digesting, so it’s important to keep restocking your supply.
How Much Water Do You Need to Drink Each Day?
- Food intake
- Activity level
- Medical conditions
Environment – A hot and humid environment might require higher water intake than a cool and dry climate. The amount of time spent outdoors also has an effect.
Food Intake – Did you know roughly 20 to 30 percent of your daily water intake can come from food alone? Watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, celery, tomatoes and cantaloupe are just some examples of fruits and vegetables with high water content. Eating fresh produce can enhance your hydration level.
Activity Level – It’s a simple equation: the more you sweat, the more water you need to drink. John Baston, M.D., a sports medicine physician and an American Heart Association (AHA) volunteer, recommends weighing yourself before and after a workout to track water loss through perspiration. “For every pound of sweat you lose, that’s a pint of water you’ll need to replenish,” Baston said. “It’s not unusual for a high school football player wearing pads and running drills to lose five pounds or more of sweat during a practice.” It is also important to note that lack of perspiration during an intense workout can be a red flag for dehydration and could cause heat exhaustion.
Medical Conditions – If you have certain medical conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, you may need to drink more water. People with cystic fibrosis have high concentrations of sodium in their sweat, and some medications can act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid.
Choosing the Best Fuel for Hydration
Water is always the best choice. Good hydration can protect your body from kidney stones and flush out toxins. It can also protect against vascular diseases, such as stroke, an elevated heart rate or a sudden drop in blood pressure. When choosing an alternative beverage to water, always be wary of added sugar.
It might sound intuitive – “That’s silly; I would never drink sugar” – but beverages like soda have an abundance of added sugar. Did you know some store-bought fruit juices, like orange juice, can also be high in added sugar?
Here is a look at more details on drinks that may be harboring added sugar:
- Flavored waters can have 8 teaspoons of added sugar per bottle or more.
- Bottled iced teas and fruit juices (such as orange or apple juice) can have 9 teaspoons of added sugar per bottle or more.
- Energy drinks can have 7 teaspoons of added sugar per can or more.
- Bottled coffee beverages can have 8 teaspoons of added sugar per bottle or more.
- Packaged smoothies can have more than 12 teaspoons of added sugar per serving.
Tips for Drinking More Water
One benefit of drinking water is that it keeps you from drinking high-calorie beverages instead. A good strategy for getting enough water is carrying a water bottle so it’s with you everywhere you go. For some added fun, try drinking through a straw! You may discover that you drink more water if you use a straw. Keep in mind that you don’t have to meet all your water needs by drinking it. As mentioned before, fruit and veggies have high water content and can help you reach your intake goals, too.
Infusing water is a tasty way to add flavor without adding sugar. When you enhance water using fruits, veggies and herbs, you’re incorporating essential vitamins into your diet that help boost immunity and fight disease. Simply place fresh produce, herbs and/or spices in a pitcher with filtered water and pop it in the fridge to chill. For the most flavorful infusion, let your colorful creation steep overnight. You can also use naturally sparkling mineral water for a fabulous fizzy twist.
Want to test out your mixologist skillset? Here are a few ideas for tasty combinations to get you started, as well as some of the benefits of these creative concoctions:
- Lemon and mint: Weight management, vitamin C, healthy-looking skin, disease prevention, kidney health, fresh breath
- Citrus, berries and mint or basil: Antioxidants, disease prevention, cholesterol management, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
- Pineapple, orange and ginger: Aids digestion, detoxification, vitamin C, improved immunity
- Lemon, cucumber and lime: Appetite control, water weight management, decreases bloating, aids digestion
How to Tell If You Are Dehydrated
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to reach for your water bottle. Once you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated and have some catching up to do. Studies by Lawrence B. Armstrong and colleagues at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory showed that dehydration can adversely affect vigilance, concentration, reaction time, learning, memory, mood and reasoning. Dehydration can also cause headaches, fatigue and anxiety.
Here are common symptoms of dehydration:
- Elevated thirst
- Dry mouth or a swollen tongue
- Weakness or dizziness
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to sweat
- Decreased urine output*
*Urine color can indicate dehydration. If your urine is concentrated and a deep yellow or amber, you may be dehydrated.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Dehydration
If any of the following symptoms occur, consider seeking medical care:
- Fever over 101 F
- Diarrhea for more than two days
- Weight loss
- Decreased urine production
- Increased or constant vomiting for more than one day
Consider going to the ER if any of the following symptoms occur:
- Fever higher than 103 F
- Difficulty breathing
- No urine in the last 12 hours
- Chest or abdominal pains
- Unrelenting headache
Interested in Learning More?
How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?
Water and Nutrition