By Florencia Tagliavini, The NutraMilk Nutritionist
More than 50% of all children and adolescents in the U.S. are not getting the hydration they need, according to research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The percentage is even higher for adults.
Have you ever wondered how the fluids and nutrients you consume get to their final destination in your body?
Water is vital to transport carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to the cells in your body. We are made of approximately 60% water. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, to remove toxins and waste, lubricate joints, conserve elasticity of your skin, transport and absorb nutrients and produce energy.
How Much do I Need to Drink?
You've heard the recommendation of 8 glasses of water per day. That's not an exact recommendation. Hydration daily needs can vary from person to person depending on sex, age, weight, exercise, environment, pregnancy or breastfeeding.
The Academy of Sciences recommends the following daily total fluid intake:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages, and food. About 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks. So, 8 glasses of water may be reasonable when you take food into account and other beverages that you may consume such as teas, coffee, milk, etc.
Signs of dehydration
A good indicator of hydration is the first morning's urine color. Usually colorless or light yellow, means you are well hydrated. If your urine is a dark yellow or amber color, you may be dehydrated.
Pay attention to warning signs or early dehydration signs:
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urine & dark colored urine
- Dry skin & premature wrinkles
- Premature fatigue/feeling tired & sleepy
- Increased body temperature
- Decreased exercise capacity & muscle cramps
What to Drink
Water is clearly not the only fluid that hydrates but it's one of the best. It hydrates without adding sugar and calories that can contribute to weight gain and health problems. If you are exercising vigorously for more than an hour or sweat a lot on a very hot day, it may be a good idea to hydrate with a drink that provides electrolytes as well.
The foods you choose to eat can account for approximately 20% of your daily fluid intake and therefore is a contributor of your overall hydration status. Certain foods contain more water than others. Fruits and veggies have a high water content and also provide carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, including the important electrolytes.
Soups, milks, smoothies, herbal teas are also great ways to hydrate. Even coffee can contribute to your overall hydration, but too much coffee can also cause you to urinate frequently so it's a good idea to limit caffeine.
Some tips to stay well-hydrated
Drink more water:
- Drink a glass of water right when you wake up.
- Keep a bottle of water with you at all times (fill up with tap water as needed).
- If you don't like the taste of plain water: Add a slice of lemon, lime or tangerine; add some mint leaves & ginger; ice and cucumber slices, ice and a tea bag of your choice; pieces of fruit (watermelon, strawberry, pineapple, etc); use carbonated water with orange slices or a splash of juice.
- Choose to drink water when you go to a restaurant.
- Drink water when you are hungry - it's often confused with hunger and it can make you feel full.
- If you always forget to drink water - create a routine so you can begin to remember and stick to:
- Always drink water before, during, and after exercise, drink one glass of water with each meal and between each meal, etc. You can also track your water intake with an app or create your own chart in a spreadsheet or on paper.
- Get your 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies or more which will contribute quite a bit of water.
- Include hydrating and nourishing smoothies to your diet, especially on hot summer days!
- Make sure you drink your servings of milk and or plant-based milk daily!
- Incorporate soups before meals - especially in winter to warm up!
*Limit high sugar beverages such as juices, sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks and instead opt for healthy homemade flavored waters, beverages, and smoothies.
Try our recipes for plant-based milks, smoothies and other beverages!
It's important to make an effort to stay well hydrated, be alert for conditions that increase your fluid loss through sweat in hot summer days or during vigorous exercise and make sure you replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.