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Staying hydrated is crucial for general health, anti-aging and optimal athletic performance. Adequate hydration helps to maintain youthful skin by promoting skin elasticity, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and support overall skin health. When the body is well-hydrated, it efficiently eliminates toxins, allowing cells to function properly. As an added bonus, it gives the skin to glow and appear more vibrant. In the context of athletic performance, proper hydration is equally critical. Even mild dehydration can lead to decreased endurance, reduced strength, impaired cognitive function, and an increased risk of injury.
Hydration supports the body’s thermoregulation, preventing overheating during intense exercise. It also aids in the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to muscles, facilitating their efficient function. Whether one is aiming to preserve youthful vitality or enhance athletic prowess, the simple yet impactful act of staying adequately hydrated remains a cornerstone of well-being and performance.
For athletes and active individuals, I recommend consuming at least 1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight per day. For example, I weigh 165 pounds so I aim to consume 165 ounces (about 1.25 gallons) of water per day. Notice that I wrote “consume” and not “drink“. This is because there are several foods that contain water so I don’t need to solely drink to meet my daily water intake. I can also consume water through foods that contain it, like fruits and vegetables. Therefore, I aim to drink a minimum of 1 gallon (128 ounces) per day and the rest I get from my veggie-rich diet.
This amount might seem like a lot, and honestly for some people it could be too much. Like those who aren’t super active, or those that have congestive heart failure or kidney disease. If you’re a healthy and active individual interested in slowing down aging and maintaining athletic performance, this amount will likely benefit you.
There are also several factors that may require you to drink even more than that. You’ll want to consume more water if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, battling sickness, recovering from injury, or experiencing fatigue or muscle soreness. Climate also plays a role in water intake. Hot, humid, dry and high-altitude environments increase the demand. These environments increase your respiration rate which causes your body to lose water faster, especially if you’re exercising in them.
The more energy you expend, through exercise for example, the more water your body requires. Plus, if you sweat a lot when you workout, your body is losing fluids that need to be replenished. It goes like this: Drink water. Get sweaty. Repeat.
For many people, consuming enough water to meet the body’s demand for it is hard. Busy lifestyles make it tough to keep up with the constant water drinking and subsequent bathroom trips. Clean tap water doesn’t have a taste at all or it can taste like minerals which can make it boring or undesirable for many people in comparison to other options. Like sugary and/or carbonated drinks. Adults also tend to reach for caffeinated beverages that divert attention from plain water. These beverages have a diuretic effect which increases urine production and may lead to dehydration if that fluid isn’t replenished.
Another reason we tend to overlook water consumption is that the signs of mild dehydration are quiet, and we don’t interpret our thirst signals correctly. You may not notice an impairment in physical or mental performance until you are severely dehydrated. When we experience thirst, it serves as a gentle prompt to drink fluids, ensuring that our cells, tissues, and organs receive the moisture they need to function optimally. Listening to and honoring these natural cues is a vital aspect of maintaining proper hydration. Tuning into our body’s signals and responding promptly by consuming water is a simple yet powerful way to support overall health and well-being.
If you struggle to consume your recommended daily amount of water, here are 5 strategies that can help:
1. Set a daily goal.
Earlier I mentioned that I recommend athletes and active individuals consume 1 ounce per pound of bodyweight per day, but you may want to aim for more or less than that based on your unique needs.
Once you set an intake goal, you can decide how you want to accomplish it with smaller, mini-goals. Your mini-goals can be schedule based – meaning you set a specific schedule and stick to it no matter what. Set specific times throughout the day to drink water. For example, have a glass of water when you wake up, before and after meals, and at regular intervals during the day. If you do this, you can set alarms on your watch or phone to remind you it’s time to drink.
Another way you can achieve your daily goal is to establish ounces milestones. You do this by dividing your daily water intake goal into smaller milestones. My mini-goals are to drink half my daily goal before noon and the other half within an hour after eating dinner. But you can divide it up however works best for your schedule.
2. Make it enjoyable.
Habits don’t form or stick unless they are enjoyable. You can enhance the flavor of your water by infusing it with slices of fresh fruit such as lemons or berries, herbs like mint or basil, or cucumber. Here are some other natural flavor enhancers that I’d recommend:
TRUE Crystallized Flavors: This item contains 1 ingredient which is crystallized fruit. They are available in convenient packets and a variety of flavors including lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit.
Stur Liquid Water Enhancer: This is the healthier version of Crystal Light because instead of containing artificial flavors and sweeteners, they are sweetened with stevia and natural flavors. Speaking of flavors, they are available in a lot of them!
GOODONYA Organic Electrolyte Powder: With only 5 ingredients including sea minerals, lemon juice, Pink Himalayan salt, coconut water and stevia, these are a great way to liven up your water and quench your thirst. The downside? They are only available in 1 flavor – lemon.
You might also want to consider the reusable container that you use to drink water. Having the container near you serves as a reminder to drink more, but get one that you LOVE. You’d be surprised the effect that a container that is aesthetically pleasing and functions to your standards can have. What tangible features interest you most? Do you want something sturdy like a HydroFlask, or something a bit lighter like a Starbucks tumbler? Straw or no straw? Handle or no handle? Insulated or not insulated? How many ounces? With ice or at room temperature?
I find that I drink more water when I use a straw. And I just LOVE this 40-ounce tumbler since its my favorite color (sage green), has a handle and fits in the cup holder of my car.
3. Track your ounces.
Tracking water intake through apps or reminders can be a game-changer in maintaining optimal hydration. With the convenience of smartphones, dedicated apps can help set daily water intake goals, allowing you to log each glass or bottle consumed. These apps often provide visual progress charts and reminders, making it easy to stay on track throughout the day. Personalized notifications nudge you to take sips regularly, turning hydration into a habit.
Integrating water intake reminders into your existing calendar or task management apps can seamlessly blend hydration goals with your routine. The interactive nature of these tools transforms the sometimes forgettable act of drinking water into a conscious and achievable target, empowering you to proactively prioritize your health and well-being.
Here is a list of smartphone apps that may help you track your daily water consumption are:
4. Establish the habit of drinking water.
As with any new habit, it takes patience and consistent intentional actions before it becomes automatic. If you’re not used to drinking much water right now, you might find that increasing your water consumption gradually is easier than immediately bumping it up to 1 gallon/day.
Finding ways to incorporate the action of drinking water into your existing daily routine will also help you achieve your daily water consumption goal. You can pair drinking a glass of water with activities that you are already doing such as brushing your teeth, exercise, responding to emails, right after waking up, or during work breaks.
Creating visual cues will also increase the chances of this action becoming a habit. Place glasses, jars or water bottles around your living and work spaces to remind you to drink. One of my tricks is to fill a quart-size mason jar of water (with a stainless steel straw, of course) and place it on my counter right in front of my coffee maker before I go to bed each night. That way, in the morning it reminds me to drink it while my coffee is brewing.
5. Eat your water.
Consuming water through food is a clever and often underestimated way to supplement hydration. Many fruits and vegetables have high water content, making them excellent sources of both essential nutrients and fluids. Foods like watermelon, cucumbers, oranges, lettuce, and berries can contribute significantly to your daily hydration needs.
Incorporating these water-rich foods into your diet not only provides hydration but also offers a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to overall health. This dual benefit showcases how a well-balanced diet can synergize with traditional fluid intake to keep the body adequately hydrated and functioning optimally.
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