Drink it all in: Why and how to stay hydrated
As the summer heat sets in, it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Water is essential for your body to function properly. Read on to understand why water is so important, how much you actually need and tips for getting more.
How does hydration affect your body’s function?
Every component of your body — cells, tissues, organs — requires water to work correctly. Key water roles include:
- Flushing waste: Perspiration, urination and bowel movements all require water. Water helps your kidneys work better and prevents constipation.
- Regulating body temperature: When you’re hot, you sweat to keep the body cool. Without water, your body temperature will rise and dehydration occurs.
- Lubrication: Water lubricates and cushions joints and the spinal cord so you have less pain when moving or from conditions such as arthritis.
- Nutrition support: Water helps you digest food more easily and dissolves nutrients so they become more usable.
- Supporting organ function: Not drinking enough water has been shown to affect your brain’s ability to focus and your short-term memory. Water also helps the heart pump blood throughout the body. It supports bright, healthy skin and may aid in collagen production.
How much water should you drink?
Drinking 48 to 64 ounces of pure water a day is a great goal. Some people need more and some need less. For some people, drinking water when they feel thirst is enough, but for others thirst indicates dehydration has begun.
Plain water should be your primary water source, but you can also get water from food (approximately 20%) and other drinks. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend the daily total water intake from all sources be approximately:
- 91 ounces for women
- 125 ounces for men
You’ll want to up your daily water intake if you:
- Exercise at high intensity
- Live in a hotter region
- Have certain medical conditions, such as kidney stones
- Are sick, pregnant or breastfeeding
- Want to lose weight
Signs of dehydration
If you have any of these dehydration signs, you’re likely not getting enough water:
- Dark or colored urine
- Lower outputs of urine
- Excessive thirst or dry mouth
- Lightheadedness or confusion
- Fewer tears if crying
What you drink matters
Fruit and vegetable juices, milk and herbal teas can help you reach your water quota. Caffeinated drinks can even count because a moderate amount (around 400 milligrams) of caffeine is relatively safe. Too much caffeine could make you feel anxious and increase how often you urinate, contributing to dehydration. Be wary of sugary drinks that add extra calories to your diet.
Tap or bottled water has zero calories. But calories add up in other drinks. Here are the calories you’ll take in from popular 12-ounce drinks:
- Sports drinks: 75 calories
- Lemonade: 105 calories
- Sweet tea: 120 calories
- Cola: 150 calories
- Orange soda: 210 calories
Getting your fill of water isn’t easy for everyone. These tips may help you get the amount you need to keep your body operating at peak performance:
- Carry a water bottle at all times.
- Strive to consume half your fluids by midday.
- Make your water more palatable by adding lemon, lime, cucumbers or berries.
- Choose sparkling water with or without a splash of juice for flavor.
- Set a schedule or use reminders to tell you when to drink.
- When hunger strikes, reach first for a glass of water.
Need help determining your optimum water intake? Contact your primary care provider for additional guidance.