The best and worst ways to stay hydrated
Thirsty? It’s important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Here are some of the best options, as well as some of the worst
Hydration is key
We all need fluid to function. Water is a key ingredient in blood, lymph and sweat. It also aids digestion, cushions our joints and tissues and helps us regulate body temperature. In fact, over half of our body weight is nothing but water. “Water helps you to feel energized,” says Klara Lorinczi, a clinical dietitian in Edmonton. “If you don’t drink enough, you might feel tired or headachy.” You can also suffer constipation or even a urinary tract infection.
Mom may have told you to drink eight glasses of water a day. But everyone’s needs are different, depending on age and size, level of activity and even the weather. What also matters is how much water you’re taking in through food. Fruits and vegetables, soups and frozen desserts all contribute to your fluid levels.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to how you hydrate. Here are some good and not-so-good ways to get your water.
Bad: Sugary drinks
Regular pop, frozen slushies and fruit-flavoured drinks are full of fluid, but they’re also loaded with calories. “We call them sugar water in our home,” says Lorinczi. One 355-mL can of pop contains 10 to 13 teaspoons of the sugar. You’re getting even more when you upsize to a half-litre bottle.
Better: Flavoured water
If you’re turned off by the taste of water, try adding a dash of lemon or lime juice, or cranberry-juice ice cubes. You can also buy flavour packets to pimp up plain water.
Bad: Fruit and veggie juices
Juice can be just as sugary as pop. “It does provide vitamin and minerals, so it’s a better choice, but it’s easy to overdo it with the calories,” Lorinczi says. It can also wreak havoc on your oral health. Try not to drink more than a cup of fruit or vegetable juice in a day.
Better: Actual fruits and veggies
Fresh produce like tomatoes, watermelons and oranges are high in water, plus they’re a good source of essential fibre. “I encourage people to eat their fruit and vegetables, not drink them,” says Lorinczi.
Bad: Energy Drinks
Energy drinks can be high in caffeine, sugar, even medicinal herbs. These ingredients are not always labelled, and they might pose health risks for teens and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Better: Low-fat milk
Milk is the ultimate, natural energy drink. “It’s about 80% water, so it’s a good source of fluid. And it comes in a lovely package with protein, carbohydrates, a little bit of fat and lots of nutrients,” says Lorinczi.
Alcohol can actually dehydrate you. That means that frosty beer on a hot day will do nothing to refresh your fluids. Try diluting your drinks with non-alcoholic mixes, or alternate alcoholic beverages with glasses of water to stay hydrated.
Better: Coffee and tea
Experts are no longer concerned that the caffeine in a moderate amount of coffee or tea (3-4 cups or less daily) can dehydrate you. In fact, because coffee or tea is often a regular part of our daily routine, it’s an important source of fluid for many people. Coffee and tea also contain antioxidants.
Bad: Drinks that don’t do it for you
“It’s easy for us as dietitians to say increase your water intake, but knowing how you like fluids is important,” says Lorinczi. “If we dig deeper, we find they don’t like water, or they don’t like it cold, or they don’t like it out of plastic containers.”
Better: Liquids you love
Do you prefer your drinks at room temperature? Do you like sipping out of ceramic mugs or see-through containers? Figure out what entices you. And since your ability to recognize your thirst worsens as you age, now’s the time to get into a fluid habit.
Too much of a good thing?
Our need for water varies, but for most people the daily requirement is around 30 millilitres per kilogram of body weight. If you go overboard, your intake can make you feel constantly full, taking the place healthy meals and snacks. Way too much water can even disturb your electrolyte balance.
But as long as you’re drinking the amount you need, you’ll enjoy the benefits of good health, get-up-and-go, and… glowing skin? “That’s one of the greatest beauty tips I’ve found,” Lorinczi says. “The women who have the best skin have been drinking water for years!”