Hydration 101

When we hear hydration many of us automatically think of water we need to drink. However, hydration is more than that. Proper hydration is when your body has a balance of both fluids and electrolytes.

The amount of fluid required each day differs between individuals and is determined by age, weight, physical activity levels, and how much you typically sweat (even without exercise). In general, a good goal is to aim for 9-11 cups (72-88 fluid ounces) per day through fluids. On average, we consume about 3-4 cups of fluids through our foods each day, so this is an additional 9-11 cup goal. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of fluid through food.

The electrolyte-fluid balance is essential for individuals performing prolonged, intense physical activity for at least an hour more than five times per week. Many individuals reach for artificially enhanced beverages for their electrolytes, but these can be high in added sugar and artificial ingredients. Electrolytes also exist naturally in food, with some of the best sources including fruit, vegetables, some nuts and seeds, and even milk and yogurt. When it comes to fluids, water is the best choice as it does not provide any added sugar or calories found in many other beverages. However, all beverages provide some amount of nutrition.

Here are some other tips for staying hydrated:

Drink at least one cup of water or unsweetened beverage with each meal and snack. Meal times and snack times can feel like a more natural time to drink more fluids.

Set an alarm/reminder throughout the day. When we get busy or caught up in a project or task, we pay less attention to our thirst cues. Setting a reminder to check in with yourself and stay hydrated can be a great way to re-focus on your needs.

Eat for hydration. There are many fruits and vegetables that are also very hydrating due to their natural water content. For fruits, go for melons, pears, berries and citrus fruits. Water-based vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, some varieties of lettuce, and bell peppers are great options too.

Make your drinks more interesting. Seltzer, sparkling water, tea, coffee and water with herbs or fruit can help increase your fluid consumption if you don't like drinking plain water. (But be aware of the sugar and cream added to coffee and tea!)

You don't need to feel thirsty to drink something. By the time we feel thirsty, this can mean we’re overdue for fluids, Drinking water throughout the day helps to prevent the thirst feeling.

Stay attuned to your body’s needs. If you’re sweating more than usual, eating more high-salt foods and fewer water-containing fruits and vegetables, or feeling symptoms of constipation, these can all be signs that it’s time to check in on our hydration.

Hydration is especially important in the warmer months, but it’s important to stay hydrated year-round.