Water is essential – the main component of our cells, tissues, and organs – yet we separate it from our daily dietary recommendations, which has resulted is misinformation about how much we should actually be drinking every day to maintain our health. Water serves many critical roles as a building material, a macronutrient for chemical reactions, a transporter of nutrients and waste, a regulator of temperature and a shock absorber, to name a few.
Still, research shows that most people aren’t meeting their daily water mark, and with few ramifications. This is because hydration is so closely regulated in the body that we have mechanisms to maintain balance (homeostasis) even when our needs aren’t being fully met. Common phrases like “8 glasses a day” or “drinking half your body weight in ounces” has a specific population at standard conditions in mind, but YOUR water needs depend on your age, gender, diet (certain populations consume food with higher water content), physical activity (especially for athletes), climate (humidity) and your metabolism.
Rather than focusing on meeting a number, keep track of your hydration by getting more in tune with your body! Easy tests include monitoring your urine color (light is good, dark is bad); pinching, then releasing your skin and seeing if it rebounds immediately; and noticing consistent sweat production while exercising. Dehydration may also be revealed with bad breath, muscle cramps, sugar cravings and headaches.
3 ways to increase your water consumption today:
1. Eat water-rich foods including watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, citrus, cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers and cauliflower.
2. Drink 8 ounces of celery juice on an empty stomach every morning. Celery is roughly 95% water and full of vitamins, minerals, as well as a healthy dose of sodium to flush the kidneys after a night of sleep or replenish electrolytes post-workout.
3. Spice up your water by infusing it with fresh fruit or frozen fruit ice cubes, fresh mint leaves (best done with hot water), or cucumber. Consider adding a splash of your favorite juice to sparkling water rather than reaching for one with added natural flavors and chemicals.