It seems strange that in a century where water is available almost anywhere, nearly 75 % of people suffer from chronic dehydration. That’s what a study carried in 2013 concluded. The simple truth is that our lives today are so busy that we sometimes forget to take adequate care of our bodies, and we wait until the last moment to eat or drink.
But water is necessary for our organism to function properly. Not a single cell, tissue, or organ can work without water. We need water to:
- Remove waste through urination and bowel movements
- Regulate body temperature
- Transport nutrients to the cells
- Participate in chemical and metabolic reactions
When we are not getting enough water, we feel dizzy, tired, and cranky. Sometimes you can get headaches or low/high blood pressure because your body has to work extra to compensate. What’s more, if we don’t pay attention to what our body is saying, we can even end up in a hospital. It happens rarely, but it’s possible, especially during hot summer days.
Staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining good physical and mental health. So today we’re going to talk about how to stay hydrated and the best way to rehydrate quickly. Keep on reading if you think that you’re not drinking enough water or you want to check if you’re.
What do you need to stay hydrated?
The most important thing you require for adequate hydration is drinking water regularly, of course. But you already know that because otherwise, you will be dead and not reading this article. But there are several other things you need to keep yourself hydrated like:
- A water bottle to measure how much you’re drinking during the day
- A backpack with bottle holder to carry water with you wherever you go
- Healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Sports drinks
- A habit tracker app like Habitica to help you keep track how much water you’re drinking a day (this is optional, but it can be useful if you tend to immerse in work and forget about drinking)
Now, let’s see how to stay hydrated.
1. Don’t believe the myths
You’ve probably heard that you should drink at least eight glasses of water every day to stay adequately hydrated, right? That’s the famous 8×8 rule, which has been circulating for longer than most of you can imagine. And many people actively follow it.
What’s more, some people claim that eight glasses of water are not enough at all and that you should gulp down at least three-four litters to stay in optimal health. Where is the truth in all this? Are you in danger of getting dehydrated if you don’t drink eight glasses or 12?
The 8×8 rule comes from a report by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science. It was published in 1945 and stated that a person should consume 1ml of water for every calorie. So 2000 calories a day equals 2000 ml of water.
However, what most people don’t know is that the report also says that you can get most of the recommended water intake from the food you eat. Mayo Clinic also supports this and states that you get 20% of the necessary water from solid food.
It makes sense when you think about it. Vegetables like cucumbers and watermelons are mostly water, and if you have a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you’ll get a lot of water from your food. Nevertheless, the popular conception that you should drink eight glasses of water took roots quickly.
In 2002, the American Journal of Physiology published a review that couldn’t find solid proof of the 8×8 rule, and it concluded that “such large amounts are not needed” for a healthy person. The research also points out that caffeine drinks and alcoholic beverages might count towards the daily water intake.
Many have believed that coffee cause dehydration because it makes you go to the bathroom more and should not be counted to the daily fluid intake. That’s not correct according to a study published by the American College of Nutrition. It concluded that caffeine didn’t cause dehydration.
And if you think about it, some people drink four-five cups of coffee a day, and they don’t end up in the hospital dehydrated. What’s more, if you drink 3-4 cups of water or coffee in a row, you’ll have to go to the bathroom very soon in either case.
2. Drink when you’re thirsty
We go back to the question “How much you should drink to stay hydrated?” Well, there is no definite answer. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends:
- About 3.7 fluids for men
- About 2.7 fluids a day for women
“Fluids” here covers – water, other drinks, and foods, so you don’t have actually to gulp down 3-4 litters to stay hydrated. How much water you need a day depends on many factors, such as:
For example, if you live in a hot climate you’ll probably need to drink more than someone who lives in a moderate climate. And if you’re exercising rigorously, you’ll need more water than someone lying on the couch.
So how can you tell when you need to drink more water? Fortunately, the organism has already created the perfect mechanism. It’s called thirst, and it’s essential for maintaining the fluid balance in your body. Here’s how it works.
When the organism lacks enough water to function properly, the first thing the body does is to release a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin is an anti-diuretic hormone, and it causes the kidneys to reabsorb water and return it to the bloodstream. If that’s not enough, your brain starts sending signals to you to tell you that you need to drink something.
So, what do you do? You drink something when you feel you’re thirsty. Some might say that you should drink water before you become thirsty, but let’s be honest. You can’t chunk down water constantly because sooner or later drinking water turns from a pleasant sensation to a chore.
Moreover, a 2014 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that drinking when you’re not thirsty might confuse your brain. At the end of the day, your body knows best how much you need to drink and when. Just follow its cues, and you’ll be fine.
3. Check your urine
If you are still wondering if you’re getting enough water, you might check your urine’s color. I know. It’s disgusting, but it can show you if your fluid intake is adequate. Light yellow color means that you’re hydrated, healthy and taking good care of your body.
Dark yellow urine signals dehydration and that you should drink something as soon as possible. Clear urine, on the other hand, might mean that you’re overly hydrated and might have a medical problem.
In case you notice any unusual urine color – orange, green, brown, or pink – make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
4. Electrolytes are important for hydration
If you enjoy sport and exercise rigorously often, you probably drink a sports drink. But do you know why? Sports drinks contain electrolytes, chemical elements/mineral which conducts electricity when you mix them with water.
Electrolytes have a crucial role in the normal functions of the organism. They regulate blood pressure, blood acidy, nerves and organ functions. Furthermore, they are necessary for adequate hydration because they keep the balance of water in your body.
Here are some important electrolytes in the human body:
You lose electrolytes when you exercise and sweat. An imbalance of electrolytes might lead to muscle cramps, nausea, or fatigue. In a worst-case scenario, you might experience kidney failure, seizures, and irregular heart rhythm.
In most cases, you shouldn’t worry about monitoring your electrolytes. That’s because we get most of the necessary electrolytes from the food. So, as long as you are eating healthily, you don’t have to worry too much about your electrolyte levels or keep bottles of sports drinks close by.
But keep in mind that if you’re an athlete and you train intensively, you can get dehydrated very quickly. In such a case, sports drinks can be your best way to rehydrate quickly and restore the fluid balance of your body.
However, you should also stay away from energy drinks at all costs. They are full of sugar, which is not good for your body even though they make you feel good and energetic.
5. Sickness changes the body’s water needs
Most people can stay hydrated just by regularly drinking when thirsty and eating a healthy and balanced meal. But you might have to make extra efforts to stay hydrated when you’re ill.
For example, when you’re vomiting, or you have severe diarrhea, you’re expelling a lot of fluids, and you need to drink a lot to replenish them. You should slip small sips frequently during the day, and it’s better to use sports drinks to restore your electrolyte balance quickly.
However, if you can’t keep water or fluid, you’ll have to go to the hospital. Diarrhea and vomiting can dehydrate you very quickly, and you’ll need intravenous hydration or oral rehydration solution. The faster you receive adequate care, the faster you’ll recover.
6. Drinking too much water might be dangerous
You might think that drinking tons and tons of water is harmless, but that’s not actually true. In fact, you can overhydrate yourself. It’s a condition known as hyponatremia, and it can have some serious complications.
You need sodium in your blood to control the amount of water in your cells. But when you drink too much you dilute the concentration of sodium in the blood. Low sodium levels lead to cell swelling and various medical problems. Usually, the symptoms of hyponatremia are:
In severe cases, hyponatremia might lead to coma and seizures, so it’s nothing to take lightly. However, it’s very unlikely that you’ll accidentally overhydrate yourself unless you’re gulping bottle after bottle of water.
At-risk here are endurance athletes like marathoners because they tend to drink more while running. An observation of the participants in the Boston marathon (2013) revealed that 13% of the runners had hyponatremia after the race. If you want to know more about this, you can read Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports by Tim Noakes.
Specialists recommend that you drink an extra 1.5-2.5 cups for an average exercise session. Of course, you’ll have to adjust that amount based on the duration and load of the workout. To determine how much you need to drink during a long run you can use this online sweat calculator or this one.
After reading all this, you might decide that sports drinks are a better choice than water for strenuous exercises. Well, sports drinks have their benefits, but they might not reduce the risk of hyponatremia. According to an article in Runner’s World your blood has a higher sodium content than sports drinks so you’ll dilute it no matter what you drink.
7. Don’t forget to drink water
In our busy lives when we are preoccupied we often forget to drink or eat regularly. And when our body makes its demands we reach for coffee, juice, Coca-Cola, or another tasty beverage. In some cases, we leave water behind. That’s a bad drinking habit.
Take a water bottle and set a goal for the day. In this way, you will make sure that you’re drinking enough and you’re not overcompensating with coffee. Remember, when you’re thirsty, the best way to hydrate is to drink water not caffeine.
Also, make sure that your backpack has a water bottle holder so that you won’t forget the bottle when you go out. If you do, you might be more inclined to substitute water with juice or coffee. You can also use apps like Habitica or Momentum to help you stay hydrated and drink an adequate amount of water.
Water is essential for all living things so staying hydrated should be a priority. Don’t forget to drink enough water throughout the day or you’re bound to feel worse in the evening. What’s more inadequate hydration might increase the risk of kidney stones, and that’s something you wouldn’t want to experience.
Remember, if you’re pregnant or you’re breastfeeding you have to drink more water to stay hydrated and support the development of your baby. Also, children get dehydrated more easily, so you should keep a close eye for signs of dehydration.
What do you think about these tips on how to stay hydrated? What’s the best way to rehydrate quickly according to you? Share your thoughts in the comments.