Hydration: More than just the water you drink

Do you struggle to drink enough water? That doesn’t mean you have to run dry. There are many other ways to hydrate beyond plain water. “Considering hydration affects virtually every physiological function in the body,” says Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, a sports dietitian and author. Fueling young athletes. “People walking around in a state of mild dehydration have no idea how much better they could feel if they drank more fluids.”

Here’s what you can do to make staying hydrated easier.

Improve your water experience

Spa waters have long been a mainstay of wellness resorts, and for good reason; Adding a simple combination of seasonal or frozen fruit, chopped vegetables, or mixing with fresh herbs can create a refreshing hydration experience. Getting the kids involved in picking fruit and vegetable combinations for the family is also a great way to get them excited about drinking more water and may even reduce requests for soda and other sugary drinks!

Eat more plants

“Food also contains water!” Prest said.We get about 20 percent liquid from our food.” On average, food provides two to three cups of our daily fluid quota. And we’re not just talking about soup (although that’s 90 percent water). Juicy fruits and vegetables are the best sources. Popular choices like watermelon, cucumbers, berries, melons, peaches, lettuce, squash and apples contain about 90 percent water, Prest says. Go ahead and make half your plate or snack fruit and vegetables for your hydration and nutrition.

Make conscious drink choices

All types of non-alcoholic beverages can be hydrating. Juice, soda, milk, tea, and coffee contain fluids that your body can use. All can contribute to your total water intake, and emerging research shows the pros and cons of each.

Research shows that sugar-sweetened beverages, such as fruit drinks and soda, are just as good for hydration as water, but they may not be the best nutritional choice. Choose fresh 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices instead of sugar-sweetened beverages and dilute with sparkling water or freeze as homemade pop when it’s hot outside; Both techniques keep your portions smaller while adding water to your diet.

While for researchers American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Comparing the hydrating ability of milk (whole milk and skimmed) to water and sports drinks, they found that milk was more effective for hydrating several hours after exercise. Why is milk so helpful? Milk may not taste all that salty, but ounce-for-ounce it contains the same 100 milligrams of sodium per cup as a sports drink. And while too much sodium may not be great for your blood pressure, our bodies need this electrolyte to retain water. That’s not the only reason sodium can be helpful. Because it binds to water, it makes you thirsty, which explains why a salty bag of pretzels makes you want to drink.

Turns out, there’s more. “Beverages like milk contain other nutrients like fat, carbohydrates, protein and potassium that slow the rate at which fluid is released from the stomach,” says Melissa Prest, DCN, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Because these drinks stay in the body longer than water, they may be more effective for hydration.”

Caffeine is okay in moderation

If you drink coffee or tea, there’s more encouraging news for hydration. “At one time, caffeinated beverages were thought to increase fluid loss, but this is not the case in people who regularly consume moderate amounts of caffeine,” says Mangieri.

Yes, caffeine is a diuretic, but only in doses over 300 milligrams, or about three 8-ounce cups of coffee (the actual dose depends on the coffee and why it’s brewed). In moderation, coffee is just as hydrating as water, according to the Institute of Medicine. So, you don’t need to give up your latte. Tea contains less caffeine, with black tea having half that of regular percolated coffee and green tea a third. Decaffeinated alternatives contain only trace levels of caffeine. The Center for Science in the Public Interest published a comprehensive list of caffeine in popular beverages available in the United States. While high levels of caffeine can affect sleep and feelings of anxiety, experts recommend keeping your total caffeine intake below 400 mg per day.

Beware of water thieves, alcoholic drinks

Like other beverages, alcoholic beverages contain a high amount of water, but this is usually not enough to offset the diuretic effects of alcohol. This means that drinking an alcoholic beverage causes your body to excrete more water through increased urination than drinking water. The higher the concentration of alcohol in an alcoholic drink, the greater the effect. If there are alcoholic beverages, be sure to hydrate with your favorite water at the same time.

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