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Staying Hydrated: Why It’s Important and How To Do It

“Do I REALLY have to drink eight cups of water every day?”

Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body. Hydration refers to water absorption, and ensuring adequate water intake is a very basic function of health. Adequate hydration promotes the body working optimally. When the body is hydrated, the heart can more easily pump blood, and muscles can move more freely. Fluids in the body also help move important nutrients to the right places, flush bacteria out of the bladder, and promote regular bowel movements.

Dehydration is defined as a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body, and it can have negative effects ranging in severity from mild discomfort to medical emergency. It can cause exhaustion, swollen feet, and headaches, and it can make certain diseases and conditions, like diabetes and kidney stones, worse. It can lead to heat stroke in warm weather and severe illness at high altitudes. Avoiding dehydration is of utmost importance!

Fluid needs depend on a variety of factors. Size, sweat, and health conditions can all influence the amount of water a person needs. Most healthy people of average size and activity level need to drink at least 30 to 50 ounces of water per day to stay hydrated. That translates to about 1-1 ½ liters. The best way to measure hydration is look at urine. Generally, urine should be pale yellow to clear in color. Dark yellow or brown urine indicates dehydration and the immediate need to drink water.

While it’s true that hydration can be achieved with a variety of fluids, water is absolutely the best choice. This is because the body needs water for just about everything it does. There’s a reason that bodies are made up of about 65% water. Additionally, water does not contain any caffeine, sugar, or calories, all of which may hinder reaching health goals. Stay tuned for future posts addressing how to decrease intake of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks.

Check out these tips for staying hydrated on the road:

  1. Buy a reusable water bottle. Reusable water bottles are widely available and inexpensive. They can be filled almost anywhere and significantly reduce the cost and waste associated with buying plastic water bottles.

  2. Eat your water. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of water, and eating them contributes to maintaining adequate hydration. Some great water-filled options include celery, oranges, applesauce, cantaloupe, and pineapples, most of which are now widely available in grocery stores and gas stations.

  3. Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine can have a diuretic effect. This means that it may signal the body to release fluids via urine, even if it needs those fluids. This can be an unintended recipe for dehydration, and we know we don’t want that!

  4. Track your water intake. This can be done manually by writing it down on a piece of paper, or by using a free app like Waterlogged, which tracks intake and sends reminders and alerts to promote drinking appropriate amounts of water.

Staying hydrated is vitally important not only to help the body function properly, but to help you feel more energized and alert. For more information on the benefits of hydration, click here.

This post was written in large part by Taylor Beard, dietetic intern at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Taylor will be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in May of 2018.

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