Drinking water regularly is the single best way to hydrate. At least 60 percent of your body is water. Every bone, muscle, and cell in your body depends on water to keep you healthy, so maintaining your hydration levels matters.
Drinking water is the best source for proper hydration, but there are also some surprising secondary sources of water that can help you stay hydrated. Sources of secondary hydration include broth or soup, grapefruit, grapes, watermelon, fruit juice, sports drinks and flavored waters, and smoothies.
Do beverages that contain caffeine hydrate just as effectively as water? Not really. Caffeine is a mild diuretic: it increases the amount of water and salt your body expels through urine. Other popular diuretics include alcoholic beverages, and there isn't a single type of alcohol that helps you hydrate. In addition to causing you to use the bathroom more often, some alcoholic beverages contain artificial sweeteners that can cause digestive issues and lead to even more dehydration.
Electrolytes matter, too
When you're considering the best way to hydrate, you also need to consider your electrolytes. Electrolytes — minerals in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids that carry an electric charge — matter. They help balance the amount of water in your body, and they move nutrients into your cells and waste out of your cells. Electrolytes also balance your body's pH level (the level of acidic and basic compounds in your blood at which your body functions best). They help your nerves, muscles, heart, and brain work the way they should. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes.
Our bodies obtain electrolytes from the food we eat and the fluids we drink. Most of us get enough electrolytes, especially salt, in our diets day-to-day. And for most of us, there's no need to ingest any more sugar than we're already getting in food (many sports beverages contain sugar, too). Drinking water is usually the best way to stay hydrated and maintain healthy electrolyte levels throughout the day.
However, there are some exceptions. If you participate in endurance sports or if you are outside on a very hot day for prolonged periods, it makes sense to drink something that also replaces some of the electrolytes that you lose in sweat. Options include electrolyte-infused waters (consider HidrateSpark’s Wave electrolyte powder water supplement or homemade electrolyte drinks). Watermelon and coconut water are excellent natural alternatives, too, says Epicurious.
It also makes sense to drink extra water to keep from getting dehydrated in settings where you know you will be losing fluids. Long plane trips are a good example. You can gradually lose a lot of moisture in the dry cabin air, and the resulting dehydration can affect you after you leave the plane. You will feel better when you land if you drink plenty of water during the flight, particularly if you're also crossing time zones.
You can learn more about fluid and electrolyte balance at Medline Plus.
How much water is enough?
You've likely heard that you should drink eight glasses of water (64 ounces) a day. For some of us it might be the right amount, but how much water you should drink each day is really based on gender, weight, and activity level. A simple way to figure out how much water, baseline, your body needs is to divide your weight by two and drink that many ounces of water each day. Plan to increase your water intake on days when you're more physically active. If you're sweating and losing water, you need to actively rehydrate.
Hydration myth? Water and weight loss
Most hydration myths involve weight loss and the effects of water, so if you're trying to drop a few pounds, is substituting water for food a good option? Yes and no: water alone is not a substitute for the many nutrients we get from food, but staying hydrated can help us know if we are hungry or just thirsty.
An important key to staying healthy is keeping things in balance. It's important to drink water and stay hydrated, but it is possible to drink too much water. Drinking too much water is rarely a problem for healthy, well-nourished adults, says Mayo Clinic, but if you do drink too much water, your kidneys can't get rid of the excess, causing the sodium content of your blood to become diluted. The situation can be life-threatening.
Similarly, while we should all watch what we eat and avoid eating to excess, our bodies do need a regular intake of calories and electrolytes. What's right for you may be as simple as listening to your mind and body; they are good indicators. For example, drinking a glass of water first when you think you need a snack is a good way to determine whether you really are hungry or simply thirsty.
Here's a simple rule of thumb: if you are trying to adjust your intake of food or fluid and it feels too hard to do, discuss the change with your doctor to determine whether your plan is sensible and will keep your body in balance.
Better hydration with HidrateSpark
Enhanced energy and optimal health begin with, and depend on, proper hydration. HidrateSpark has created a fun, easy, and innovative way to help you increase your water intake for a better life.
The HidrateSpark smart water bottle, along with the HidrateSpark app, can help you stay motivated with a BPA-free, food-safe tritan and polypropylene plastic bottle that reminds you when it's time to drink more water — by glowing! The app's hydration equation customizes how much water you need based on your body and activity level. The app also monitors your drinking habits to help you meet your hydration goals. And the free HidrateSpark App syncs with most fitness trackers.If you would like to learn more about how HidrateSpark can help you on your way to better hydration, visit HidrateSpark.com.