Importance of Hydration
Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
Experts recommend drinking roughly 11 cups of water per day for the average woman and 16 for men. And not all of those cups have to come from plain water; for example, some can come from water flavored with fruit or vegetables (lemons, berries, or orange or cucumber slices), or from coffee or tea.
But it’s best to stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages when trying to stay hydrated, says Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In a September 28, 2017 CNN article, Willett said that Americans are “conditioned to expect high levels of sweetness in everything…. You might say we are malhydrated, because we drink so much soda and fruit juice and other sugar-sweetened beverages, and by that I mean we drink beverages that harm our health. Even energy drinks and vitamin waters, most are loaded with sugar and not worth the use.”
However, it’s best to limit caffeinated drinks. Caffeine may cause some people to urinate more frequently or feel anxious or jittery. Plus, be mindful of what you drink. Some choices may add extra calories from sugar to your diet.
Water can also be found in fruits and vegetables (for example, watermelon, tomatoes, and lettuce), and in soup broths.
Sports drinks can be helpful if you’re planning on exercising at higher than normal levels for more than an hour. They contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that can increase your energy. They help your body absorb water. However, some sports drinks are high in calories from added sugar. They also may contain high levels of sodium (salt). Check the serving size on the label. One bottle usually contains more than one serving. Some sports drinks contain caffeine, too. Remember that a safe amount of caffeine to consume each day is no more than 400 milligrams.
Energy drinks are not the same as sports drinks. Energy drinks usually contain large amounts of caffeine. Also, they contain ingredients that overstimulate you (guarana, ginseng, or taurine). These are things your body doesn’t need. Most of these drinks are also high in added sugar. According to doctors, children and teens should not have energy drinks.
If you don’t drink enough water, you may become dehydrated. This means your body doesn’t have enough fluid to operate properly.
Your urine can be an indicator if you’re dehydrated. If it’s colorless or light yellow, you’re well hydrated. If your urine is a dark yellow or amber color, you may be dehydrated.
Some people are at higher risk of dehydration, including people who exercise at a high intensity (or in hot weather) for too long, have certain medical conditions (kidney stones, bladder infection), are sick (fever, vomiting, diarrhea), are pregnant or breastfeeding, are trying to lose weight, or aren’t able to get enough fluids during the day. Older adults are also at higher risk. As you get older, your brain may not be able to sense dehydration. It doesn’t send signals for thirst.
Note that water makes up more than half of your body weight. You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe. You lose water even faster when the weather is really hot, when you’re physically active, or if you have a fever. Vomiting and diarrhea can also lead to rapid water loss. Be sure to actively drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated.