5 Easy Ways to Drink More Water
This article originally appeared on Outside
We've all heard it before: Hydration is good for your health and athletic performance. The thing is, maintaining adequate water levels is easier said than done. Registered dietitian nutritionist Maya Feller says her patients report water as one of the hardest things to consume. "They either find it not desirable," says Feller, "or they forget."
Jen Scott, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and running coach, says that skimping on water can lead to a host of negative effects including, zapped energy, elevated heart rate, GI distress, diminished blood flow to your organs and muscles, decreased lubrication around your joints, and increased muscle fatigue and soreness. Or, as Feller puts it: "Without proper hydration, the body just does not function optimally."
How Much Water Should I Be Drinking?
The right amount of hydration depends on a number of factors, including your activity level, overall health, and even the climate where you live, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a general rule of thumb, the Institute of Medicine recommends men consume 3.7 liters (15.5 cups) of water per day, while women should sip on 2.7 liters (11.5 cups).
But these benchmarks include water intake from all beverage types, as well as foods. A good barometer to aim for is half your bodyweight in ounces, Scott says. For example, a 160-pound person would shoot for 80 ounces (10 8-ounce cups). However, she tells active folks, like endurance athletes, to add additional fluid. Scott recommends sipping on two extra cups (16 ounces) before a workout, two cups after, and half a cup during for every 30 minutes of exercise.
For athletes, hydration should include not just water, but electrolyte replenishment, too, say Scott and Feller. Electrolytes are minerals such as calcium, potassium, and sodium that you lose when you sweat. Because electrolytes impact a number of bodily processes, including muscle function, it's important to replenish lost stores through fluids like sports drinks, milk, coconut water, mineral water, and hydration aids. (Plain old water doesn't have electrolytes.)
You're likely well hydrated if you don't often feel thirsty and your pee is clear or light yellow, according to the Mayo Clinic. That said, Feller recommends athletes work with a dietitian to come up with a fueling and hydration plan that works for them. "It needs to be individualized," she says.
In the meantime, if you're struggling to take in enough liquids, here are five simple, expert-recommended ways to boost your hydration.
How to Drink More Water
1. Brew a pot of herbal tea
Feller is a big fan of herbal teas-either warm or iced. "It doesn’t have to all be [plain] water to meet your fluid needs," says Scott. Tea, in particular, may deliver additional health benefits. Sipping two to three cups a day is linked with reduced risk of total mortality, cardiac death, coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, according to a meta-analysis of observational studies. The only caveat is that very hot tea (think: 131 to 140 degrees) is associated with esophageal and gastric cancers, according to the meta-analysis. It may be wise to let your mug cool slightly before drinking.
2. Make your own infused water or ice cubes
Some people just don't like the taste of water. If that's you, Scott recommends freshening things up by squeezing lemon juice into your H20 or adding a splash of fruit juice.
Another option is to make your own infused water: Add your favorite fruits, veggies, or herbs to the bottom of a pitcher. Then, pour water on top and let the flavor soak in. Feller is a fan of water infused with frozen berries as well as lime, cucumber, basil, and mint.
You can also level up your water by making flavored ice cubes. Simply add a favorite ingredient or two to an empty ice cube tray, then pour water over it and let it freeze. Feller recommends kiwi-lemon for a "tangy" taste. You can also try this recipe for raspberry-lemon ice cubes.
3. Lean on hydrating foods.
About 20 percent of your hydration comes from food sources, says Feller. "So really embracing plant-rich food sources is a great way to add to your hydration while still thinking about flavor and texture," she says. Scott recommends nibbling on fruits and vegetables with a high-water content, like melons, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. "Those things can all help boost your hydration," she says. "Every little bit helps."
4. Make your favorite soup.
Soups can be a warming, filling, and healthy meal choice. Broth-based soups, in particular, can help contribute to your hydration. As a bonus, soups can provide a dose of sodium, which is helpful for athletes who need to replenish those electrolytes, says Scott.
5. Find a motivating water bottle.
It sounds simple, but picking the right container for your water can make a difference. "I have some patients that have a lot of success with water bottles that have demarcations on them so they can see how much they consumed," says Feller. One patient, she adds, finds motivation from drinking from a clear water bottle, since she can easily track her progress throughout the day.
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