How much water should I drink, and when should I have water? These are common questions that many of us don’t know the answer to. Multiple misconceptions about proper hydration have surfaced, making it difficult to recognize what truly constitutes good hydration practices. Understanding the physiological role of water is the first step toward realizing the importance of hydration. Water is used for multiple functions in the body, such as cushioning and lubricating brain and joint tissue, transporting nutrients, carrying waste away from cells, and helping to regulate body temperature. When we are sick our body needs even more water.
Under average conditions, our body loses and needs to replace about 2-3 quarts of water (64-96 ounces) each day. A portion of this deficit results from breathing, urinating, defecating, perspiring and sneezing. Physical activity also contributes to a large amount of fluid loss, so if you exercise regularly, your water needs are increased. The American Dietetic Association states that drinking the right amount of fluid before, during and after physical activity is vital to providing your body with the fluids it needs to perform properly. Consuming the appropriate quantity of fluid minimizes your risk for dehydration, over-hydration, heat illness and/or injury. A sure way to determine if you are hydrated is to check your urine. Clear urine or urine resembling lemonade means you are hydrated, while dark-colored urine can be indicative of dehydration.
- Drink a glass of water in the morning with breakfast, as your body hasn’t received fluids for multiple hours
- Bring a water bottle with you during the day. Concentrate on drinking small, frequent sips regularly in between meals
- When you pass a drinking fountain, stop and take a quick drink
- Drink enough water after exercise to compensate for the recent fluid loss
Although the best source for fluid intake is water itself, drinks that are primarily made up of water are good too, including sports drinks, herbal teas, lemon water and vegetable broth. Sports drinks are not recommended unless you are participating in moderate to high intensity exercise that lasts an hour or longer. Also, many of the foods that we regularly consume are primarily composed of water, such as most fruits, greens and vegetables. In the end, hydration is a complicated topic and people often struggle with it on a daily basis. Recognizing the important part that water plays in a healthy body, and following these simple tips, will help you to understand and employ proper hydration techniques.
Hydrate Right (2011). Retrieved from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id-7084
Hydration and health (2010). Retrieved from http://dept.washington.edu/hhpccweb/article-detail.php?ArticleID=335&ClinicID=13