I cannot be the only one that regularly plays the “Why Do I Have a Headache Today?” game. Is it from lack of sleep? Stress? Not enough caffeine to satiate my addiction to coffee? Dehydration? Something else that I haven’t even considered? Great, now I have a headache from considering all of the things that my original headache could have been from!
To simplify things a little bit, I want to focus most of today on hydration: how it typically looks when a person is hydrated, how to drink more water throughout the day, and foods that are higher in water density that can also assist in hydration.
It is relatively common knowledge that the human body is primarily composed of water, somewhere between 60-70% according to research. Knowing this, it makes sense that staying hydrated would be pretty important! Not only are our brain, lungs, and skin amongst other vital organs mostly made up of water, but water also helps to regulate body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, prevents infections, delivers nutrients to the cells, and improves sleep quality, thought processes, and mood. Not only does water assist in all those functions, but if we are drinking more water, we would typically be drinking less beverages that are high in calories, sodium, and sugar.
So, how do you know when you are properly hydrated? By checking the water that comes out of your body, of course! Not only is it important to periodically examine the color of your urine but also how often you are using the bathroom. More water in equals more water out! Typically, the lighter in color your urine is, the more hydrated you are. Researchers encourage having “pale yellow” urine and eliminating it every 2-3 hours. This will be a little different from person to person, but if you are close to these goals, then you are probably on the right track.
If checking your waste on a regular basis isn’t the right strategy for you, checking your skin’s elasticity is also an option. You can do this by pinching the skin on the abdomen or lower part of your arm. If the skin bounces back to its original state, then you are hydrated. If not, then it may be time to grab some more water.
If you only drink water when you are thirsty, you are likely dehydrated. By the time the body alarms the brain to tell you to pick up some H2O, you are likely already behind. So how can we increase our water intake?
1.) Infuse the flavor by adding strawberries, cucumbers, lemon and/or lime slices, basil, mint, celery, ginger, or lavender. Every day you can add different flavors to your water to keep the drink unique and exciting.
2.) Drink a glass of water before each meal, either while you are prepping or waiting for it to cook. Not only will this assist in hydration, but it will also make you feel less hungry, resulting in less calorie intake.
3.) Buy a water bottle that has marks of how many ounces you are drinking throughout the day. Doing this can assist in feeling like you are achieving a small goal every hour when you reach a new tick mark on the bottle.
4.) Have water easily accessible by taking it with you wherever you go.
5.) Even though coffee and tea do have a high density of water, you can increase your intake more by drinking 8 ounces while you wait for that cup to brew.
6.) Lastly, you can eat foods that have a higher water density. The following is a list of water dense foods that can assist with staying hydrated and make you feel good about the low-calorie count: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, oranges, skim milk, cucumbers, lettuce, broth, zucchini, celery, plain yogurt, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, grapefruit, coconut water, and cottage cheese. It is important to note, that even though yogurt and cottage cheese are high in water density, they can also be high in sugar and fat. Reviewing the nutrition label and choosing either “zero” or “low fat or sugar” options may be all around healthy picks when it comes to hydration and appropriate macro and caloric intake.
But we still have not talked about how much water in ounces we should be drinking. Sixty-four ounces or eight cups a day has been the typical standard for some time, but this has become more of the minimum. The amount of water that you should drink will depend on your weight, height, and amount of exercise amongst other standards, but research suggests that women should drink closer to eleven cups of water a day or eighty-eight ounces. Men should drink around sixteen cups of water a day or one hundred and twenty-eight ounces per day.
If hearing these numbers feels a bit out of reach, no need to worry. Just like with any goal, start small and work your way up to the larger ones. For example, if you currently drink 2 cups of water a day, try to double it with 4 cups for the upcoming week. Once you can regularly achieve that, increase again with 2 additional cups and so forth until you reach your long-term goal.
As an added bonus accountability activity, starting April 1st (this is no April Fool’s Joke!) we will be starting a Hydration Challenge where you will be added to a private Facebook Group of likeminded people that are working towards increasing their overall water intake. For the cost of one cup of a coffee ($5), you will get an entire month’s worth of live weekly check-ins, downloadable PDFs, and maybe even a few new friends. Sign up today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling or texting (989) 388-1880.
Please let me know either in the comments section below, on our social media, or in a private conversation of any other concerns, comments, or questions regarding how to stay properly hydrated!