By Marjorie Clapp, MGH Dietetic Intern
The human body is comprised of roughly 60-70% water. For this reason, maintaining proper fluid balance can dramatically influence how well our bodily systems work, including nerves and muscles, cognition, and immune function. Unfortunately, staying hydrated isn’t always easy. In fact, about 70% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep you hydrated this summer.
How do I know if I’m dehydrated? Feeling thirsty is the most obvious indicator that you need to drink more. The color of your urine can also help determine your hydration status. Your urine should be pale yellow or clear. If it’s darker than that, it’s time to drink! Other common signs of dehydration include headache, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and irritability.
Hydration Tip: Keep a tall glass of water on your bedside table and drink before getting ready for your day.
How much fluid do I need? Although fluid needs depend on many factors, including size, activity level, and climate, a good goal is to consume no less than 64oz each day, although some research estimates needs to be much higher (~90oz/day for women, ~125oz/day for men).
Hydration Tip: Exercisers require additional fluids to replenish water lost through sweat and respiration. Weigh yourself before and after working out and aim to consume 3 cups of water for every pound lost during exercise.
When is the best time to hydrate? Anytime! Aim to sip fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration. Although it’s recommended to consume the majority of your fluid from water; milk, juice, soda, and caffeinated beverages count towards your fluid goal. Just remember to read labels. Calories from sweetened beverages can add up quickly! Food can also help you reach your fluid goals. Water-rich foods include lettuce (96% water), watermelon (92% water), grapefruit (91% water), broccoli (91% water) and yogurt (89% water).
Hydration Tip: Keep a water bottle on hand in your bag or purse to encourage hydration throughout the day.
What about sports drinks? Most sports drinks contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphorus) and added sugars to help your body refuel after strenuous exercise. If you’re sweating heavily or exercising for more than 60 minutes, a sports drink may be appropriate. However, most people can rehydrate appropriately with water and a balanced post-workout snack such as an apple with string cheese, hummus and whole grain crackers, or a banana with 1-2 Tablespoons of nut butter.
Hydration Tip: Try diluting/cutting your sports drink with water to provide some electrolytes but reducing the sugar and calories.
(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)