While foods fuel movement and recovery, water is the cornerstone on which all nutrition, movement, and recovery depend. The human body is 72 percent water and every system within it requires adequate hydration to operate optimally. Water enables the body to absorb nutrients and transport them wherever they need to go. It aids in digestion, elimination of waste and toxins, regulates body temperature and metabolism, lubricates joints and muscles, and supports healthy brain function.
Dehydration spells TROUBLE
Once we feel thirsty the body has already lost as much as 10 percent of its water stores, and that level of dehydration is often chronic due to overconsumption of non-water beverages and foods that don’t support hydration. Chronic dehydration can lead to reduced energy and productivity, illness, overeating due to false hunger cues, and ultimately weight gain and related diseases. Lose too much water too quickly, and it spells TROUBLE for the body:
- Temperature regulation suffers
- Risk of injury increases
- Output from the heart decreases, affecting oxygenation
- Understanding and ability to concentrate diminish as the brain loses function
- Blood volume decreases
- Lethargy, dizziness, and irritability can occur with even mild dehydration
- Endurance for even the most basic movements decreases
Basic hydration guidelines
Drinking ½-1 ounce of water per pound of body weight daily is an essential component of proper nutrition. Consuming about half your body weight in water every day provides 70-80 percent of the water your body needs, but the other 20-30 percent needs to come from your food. Foods that hydrate include cucumber, lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, grapefruit, strawberries, carrots, and apples. Those vegetables and fruits, among others, often contain 84-97 percent water. Incorporating them into your daily nutrition plan can help keep the body hydrated while also providing vitamins and nutrients to fuel the body and support a healthy immune system. Avoid sodas, fruit drinks, alcohol, and excessive caffeine to maximize water intake and feel your best.
Simple strategies to drink more water
Drinking enough water can sometimes feel like a chore. Here are a few simple strategies to increase your daily water intake:
- Keep a 1-liter bottle at your desk and refill it twice during the day, eliminating the need to count ounces.
- Keep bottled water handy in your car or gym bag.
- Write notes or checkmarks on your water bottle with a dry-erase marker to count refills.
- Set hydration break reminder alarms on your cell phone.
- Use a water tracking app or reminder app to keep you mindful of water intake throughout the day.
- Aim for 3 colors of fruits and vegetables on each meal plate, and you’ll get the 5+ daily servings you need to keep you hydrated.
- Drink caffeine-free tea as part of a nightly bedtime routine.
- Replace sugary sodas or juices with sparkling water.
- Look for lemonade-colored urine throughout the day to verify that you’ve had enough water.
If these tips still seem a little overwhelming, take the Hydration Challenge and add one water-boosting habit every two weeks until staying hydrated is a way of life. One easy first step might be replacing one soda or cup of coffee with water or green tea each day. Keep things interesting by incorporating infused water into your diet. Keep a water pitcher in your refrigerator and combine tasty fruits and herbs like strawberry and basil to flavor the water without added sugar or chemicals.
Fueling a healthy body isn’t just about food. It starts with supporting normal functions, movement, and regeneration with healthy hydration levels. Stay mindful of your body’s need for water by paying attention to the way you feel and perform. Your body will let you know when it needs water, but the goal should be to provide enough water every day that excess thirst becomes a thing of the past. Your body—and brain—will thank you for it.
In partnership with EXOS, a world leader in human performance and the management company for CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.