Perhaps you’re feeling a bit lethargic, can’t seem to concentrate, experience lightheadedness, and feel stressed, well, you may be exhibiting signs of dehydration. Whether you’re in the heat of a tennis match or just going about your daily routine, you need to stay hydrated in order to keep alert and healthy. While the amount of water you need may vary, getting enough fluids is critical. Learning how much is enough and ways to stay hydrated can make a big difference in your health and personal energy — and can be a factor in successful weight loss. Many of us misinterpret thirst for hunger and grab for a snack when we should be grabbing a water bottle.
How much water should you drink?
There’s a simple formula for figuring out how much water your body needs on a normal basis. Divide your weight by 2 and you’ll get the minimum number of ounces of water you require daily. At 120 lbs, for example, your body needs 60 ounces of fluids each day. How much is that? Well, it’s five 12 ounce glasses or about three and a half 500 ml water bottles.
Now, in extremely hot weather or if you are very active or participating in sports, you’ll experience greater fluid loss through perspiration. Therefore, the number of ounces you’ll require will rise dramatically. That’s why some people faint from the heat – it’s not the heat but the lack of adequate fluids that causes a drop in blood pressure which can cause fainting.
Why fluids are important
When we don’t get enough fluids, the cells of our body, even our skin cells, start to dehydrate and begin to pull water out from our bloodstream. As a result, our blood thickens and our body systems, including our brain and heart, which depend heavily on these fluids, can no longer function efficiently. That’s why you may feel sluggish and have trouble thinking clearly. In extreme cases, it can cause cardiac arrest. After all, our bodies are 40-70% water and for many of us maintaining that level takes a conscious effort.
Six tips to staying hydrated
- Water is always the number one choice. It should top the list of what you drink each day. Stay away from sugary sodas and juices that contain high fructose corn syrup. These sugars actually prevent water from remaining in your body and, of course, contain unwanted calories. Similarly, caffeinated drinks, tea and coffee are poor choices because they act as diuretics and actually pull water from your body. Alcohol is another liquid to avoid. Drinking beer in the summer can actually dehydrate you. So, if you are going to drink alcohol, it’s a good idea to drink a glass of water between drinks to keep yourself hydrated.
- Cold filtered water tastes better and burns calories. That’s right – if you drink cold water, your body needs to raise the fluid to body temperature and uses calories to do so. In the summer, partially fill a water bottle with filtered water and freeze it. When you’re ready to go, top off the bottle. The frozen portion will gradually thaw out and keep the water you drink cool.
- Set aside a container large enough to hold a full day’s water. Many of us have trouble judging our daily water requirements. A good way to get on track is to fill up a container that will hold the full daily amount. Draw from this container throughout the day and you’ll see how close you come to your target. If there are just a few drops left at the end of the day – bravo! If the jug is still half full – then you’ll want to be more conscientious about sipping throughout the day. Keep this up for a few weeks and soon you’ll have a good idea of just how much water you should be drinking.
- Drink water during meals. This is a great way to make sure you stay hydrated and it’s also a great way to cut out excess calories. Stop between bites for a sip of water. You’ll eat more slowly, feel fuller and eat less! At home, put a big pitcher of cool water on your dinner table so you can easily refill your glass.
- Carry a water bottle wherever you go. Everywhere you go you see the cool people carrying water bottles – be one of them. And use it! Grab a water bottle along with your keys before leaving home and whenever you think of it, take a sip – at traffic lights, between tasks at work, or while walking down the grocery store aisle. If you carry it with you, sipping water will become an automatic, unconscious healthy habit. And, if you see a water fountain or water cooler, stop for a drink. If you’re active, those camelback packs are a handy, hands-free way to stay hydrated. At night, be sure to place a water bottle at your bedside so you can have a drink without getting up out of bed.
- Eat water-rich foods. Fruits and vegetables are very high in water content and (true to its name) watermelon is nearly 97% water! Even meats contain up to 60% water. Good choices are: steak, chicken, soup, lettuce, cucumbers, grapefruit, apples, grapes, carrots, tomatoes, low-fat cottage cheese and low-calorie smoothies.
The bottom line is to keep water handy, and make sipping water such a comfortable habit that it becomes a “fluid” part of your daily routine. Water will help keep you energetic, alert, alive and healthy. So bottoms up!