If you are like me and a big fan of the book/movie Hunger Games, Katniss’s most important advice she received to help her stay alive was to find a source of water. When my sister lived in Madagascar while serving in the Peace Corps, she spoke of taking clean water for granted as she was often dehydrated. Water consumption, at times, is easily forgotten how important for our survival.
Water should be your number one beverage choice, especially during the hot summer months We are made up of 65 percent water, which is a key nutrient that is vital for our bodies. Hydration is critical to good blood volume, cardiac output and delivery of oxygen to the working muscles. Water also helps regulate the body’s temperature, improves alertness, controls appetite, assists with digestion and improves activity and sport performance. Fatigue and headaches can also be held at bay by sipping on a bottle of water. The average amount of water that can be lost in a day through regular bodily functions is two to two-and-a-half liters.
Staying well hydrated can be achieved by drinking eight glasses of water each day is what we have heard for years, however, there is no supporting scientific evidence. A good rule of thumb to achieving hydration is to drink enough fluids that you will have to go to the bathroom every two to four hours. Urine is a good indicator of hydration status and if you have sat at your computer at work all day and not visited the ladies or men’s room, then you have not drank enough fluids. Folks who exercise will require more due to sweating and breathing. If you experience cramping and/or headaches, this is a late sign that you are dehydrated.
Getting up to go is a good thing.
Remember that certain fluids can be a significant amount of calories, which may result in unwanted weight gain. Drinks that contribute calories but are not very nutrient dense are really the ones to watch out for such as bottled juices (300-400 calories for 20 ounces) or 7-11 Double Gulp Soda (600 calories). Aim for fluids that have 10 calories or less per 8 oz serving to prevent unnecessary weight gain such as Crystal Light, Propel, Fruit2O, and Diet Snapple. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol can aggravate dehydration because they act as diuretics, which promote the production of urine.
The importance of drinking water cannot be emphasized enough. Maintaining optimal health, all begins with a glass of water. So pour yourself a glass and DRINK UP!
Daily hydration tips
A great way to start your hydration plan is to stay well-hydrated throughout the day. To meet your daily fluid needs, here are some tips to ensure you will meet your needs:
- Carry a water bottle to help you remember you to drink more throughout the day.
- Aim to drink water with every meal and snack.
- Drink water at 1:1 ratio with alcohol, and caffeine.
- Flavor it up! Flavor your water with lemon or lime juice. Frozen pieces of fruit such as grapes or oranges are a great substitute for ice cubes.
- Eating fresh fruits and vegetables are also a great way to incorporate water into your diet.
Melody Chavez is a dietitian at the James A. Haley VA Hospital. She is the Outpatient Nutrition Supervisor and also the MOVE! Coordinator. She is involved in system redesign initiatives within the nutrition department as well as the VISN level.