Hydration hacks: Fun, innovative ways to boost your water intake
We all know we need to drink water, and probably more of it. But these days, the options go beyond just plain water—there’s carbonated water, flavored water, water sweetened with syrups, electrolyte water and many, many more.
But with all these ways to “spice up” your water, are you still getting the water you need? Or do all these additives get in the way of proper hydration? Here’s a registered dietitian’s take on this flavored water trend, and what you need to know about getting and staying hydrated.
How much water should you be drinking?
There’s no blanket recommendation for everyone across the board when it comes to water intake. The National Academy of Medicine and the Institute of Medicine suggest everyone drink between 9 and 13 8-ounce servings of water per day. For reference, a regular glass of water is about 8 ounces.
Your hydration goal will vary based on your activity level and other factors, like being male or female. In the recommendations above, in general, men are recommended to drink 13 servings, and women are recommended to drink nine. I also like to tailor goals for my clients based on where they currently are in their intake and gradually build up! So, your goal will depend on where you’re starting from and where you’d like to be.
You may be wondering how to tell if you’re not drinking enough water. Some general signs of dehydration include:
- Increased thirst
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Feeling tired
- Dry mouth, lips or tongue
- Decreased urine output
- Dark yellow urine
You might also have a headache, feel nauseous or experience muscle cramps after prolonged activity with inadequate hydration.
“Real” vs “fake” water
Over the years people have invented some creative ways to mix up flavors and make hydration fun! There are so many more options to add flavor to beverages now, including low-calorie and sugar-free mixes, naturally sweetened stevia or monk fruit blends, and infusing fruit into your water.
You may have also seen people on social media adding sugary syrups and other additives to their water, or creating fancy hydration “bars” with all sorts of options. So, are these concoctions still hydrating? Or is this “fake” water?
The "real" vs "fake" water debate is just a distraction. Water is water. There is only one way to hydrate—you must consume enough fluid to meet your body's individual needs. How you achieve this will vary greatly on your individual preferences and any other personal factors like allergies or intolerances.
With hydration being so critical to well-being, I'm on board with adding flavors to meet an individual's fluid goals. If that’s what you need to do to make sure you’re staying hydrated, then go for it—but try to reach for low-calorie and sugar-free options first to maintain healthy energy balance. And be sure and pay attention to how you feel and monitor your tolerance to these flavorings, as they may not be a good option for everyone.
Other fun, healthy ways to drink more water
There are also other ways to make drinking water fun besides adding flavorings. For example, try buying a new, fun water bottle! Many people love the bottles with times listed to remind them to hit specific goals throughout the day.
You can also use a timer on your phone to remind you that it’s time to drink or to check in on your hydration status. The most practical advice I can give you is to shoot for half your water intake by lunch and the other half by bedtime.
Other ideas for adding some interest to your water intake include:
- Sparkling water
- Low-calorie coconut water
- Light or diet juice
- Bottles with flavoring cartridges
You can also get water from food, too! Try to incorporate hydrating foods like fruits and veggies in every meal and snack to increase your overall fluid levels.
What about electrolytes?
Electrolyte waters and electrolyte mix-ins are also gaining in popularity. Electrolytes are minerals found in our blood that help control the balance of fluid in the body. This balance ensures many vital functions are maintained, such as blood pressure control and muscle contractions.
I recommend electrolyte-enhanced products on a case-by-case basis with my clients. In cases of excessive heat exposure, endurance exercise or adequate fluid intake with still obvious signs of dehydration, adding electrolytes can be vital in preventing or treating dehydration and muscle cramping. But they do not replace volume necessarily, which is why hitting your fluid ounces per day is still critical—with or without electrolytes.
The bottom line on hydration: Drink more water!
At the end of the day, all efforts to drink more water are good steps in the right direction! Like everything when it comes to health and wellness, your hydration needs are unique to you. Don’t waste time comparing yourself to anyone else. Do what works for you and helps you feel well.
Questions about hydration? Talk to your doctor or find a dietitian near you.
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