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5 tips for staying hydrated

Keeping your body hydrated helps your body get and stay healthy. In fact, you need to stay hydrated for your body to function.

“Staying hydrated is important for many reasons, including protecting our organs, increasing energy, boosting our immune system and preventing headaches and constipation,” said Hope Quilling, a dietetic intern at OSF HealthCare.

When you think of hydrating, you probably think about things like how much water you should drink a day. But you can stay hydrated by doing more than drinking water.

Staying hydrated

1. Drink more water

The simple fix to staying hydrated is to drink more water. But you can stay hydrated in other ways, too.

Milk and tea are other options to drink. Milk is especially good for rehydration because it contains vitamins and minerals that help refresh your cells. Even sparkling water can rehydrate you.

“But, it’s important to look at the nutrition label and ingredients list of sparkling waters as some may contain caffeine and added sugars, which may be something we want to limit,” Hope said.

Black coffee is another option, but in moderation.

“Coffee contains caffeine which means it increases the production of urine. Most research suggests that when you drink it in moderation – about 1 or 2 eight-ounce cups of brewed coffee – the liquid balances the dehydration effect,” Hope said.

“If you’re drinking more than 3-4 eight-ounce cups of coffee, you may become dehydrated due to the diuretic effect from the caffeine.”

2. Eat water-rich foods

Fruits and vegetables are high in water. Choose foods like lettuce, cabbage, watermelon, berries, pineapple, spinach, zucchini, celery and cucumbers. However, this is not enough to meet your daily fluid needs, so you still need to drink water, Hope said.

3. Apply sunscreen to skin

The sun zaps your skin of hydration and dries you out. The more you can protect your skin, the better hydrated you’ll stay.

4. Add electrolytes to your water

Electrolytes work with your cells to help balance the fluid in your system. When you work out, run, play sports, or spend a day out in the sun, you are likely to sweat out more fluid. Electrolyte drinks, like Gatorade, Prime hydration drink and Liquid I.V. Hydration, can help to replenish the fluid in your body. However, these drinks are usually high in sugar, so you should limit drinking them to when you need to replenish fluid after sweating.

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5. Avoid alcohol, soda and sugary drinks

These kinds of drinks can dehydrate you quickly. That’s why you may crave water or have a dry mouth the morning after drinking alcohol.

If you’re experiencing a stomach bug or other illness and can’t keep liquids or food down, you can try to eat popsicles or ice chips.

It usually takes about 15 minutes to an hour for your body to absorb the liquid and rehydrate.

How much water should you drink a day?

Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. You want to make sure that you’re drinking enough water a day, while not drinking too much water.

You don’t need to measure exactly how much water you’re drinking. If you feel good and hydrated, you should be OK. The best way to measure how much water you should drink is to drink when you’re thirsty. If you’re thirsty, you know your body needs some water.

“A general goal for how much fluid to consume in a day is nine cups for women and 13 cups for men,” Hope said.

An average water bottle is 16 ounces, which is two cups. So to get a good amount of water, you would drink about five to eight water bottles a day.

How to drink more water

If you aren’t in a good habit of drinking enough water each day, these tips may help you to establish a good routine of drinking more water.

  • Keep a reusable water bottle or cup with you throughout the day. It’s easier to drink water if it’s right there next to you all day.

“Remembering to drink fluids all day is hard!  Keeping a fun water bottle on you at all times can make it easier,” Hope said.

  • Keep a cup of water next to your bed. Take a few sips of water before you get out of bed. Sleeping means you often go a long stretch of hours without drinking anything, so many people need water to replenish their bodies after sleeping.
  • Drink a glass of water with each meal. Many times when you feel hungry, it may just be that you’re thirsty. Drinking water can help you to stay hydrated and avoid overeating.
  • “If drinking plain water is not something you enjoy, you can add a sugar-free flavoring or even add fruit and herbs to add flavor (i.e. raspberries and mint, strawberries and basil, lemon),” Hope said
  • If you need to, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stop and drink some water. Once you are in the habit of drinking water, you likely won’t need the alarm reminder anymore because it will be your natural habit.

“Or try one of the hydration apps to alert you it’s time to drink,” Hope said.

  • “Another tip is to have a friendly competition with your friends or family to see who meets their hydration goal,” Hope said.

Signs of dehydration

When you’re dehydrated, you probably want to hydrate fast. The first and simplest way to hydrate is to drink a tall glass of water.

“There is no one way to hydrate your body quickly, so it is recommended to drink fluids throughout your day,” Hope said.

“Our body loses water through urine, sweat, bowel movements and even the breath we take.”

When you haven’t consumed enough water, your body gets dehydrated. Dehydration can occur for many reasons. You need to rehydrate throughout the day. But you may also dehydrate by exercising, playing sports or spending time outside in the sun and the hot weather.

“A quick rule of thumb, if you feel thirsty you are likely already dehydrated,” Hope said.

“Another simple way to tell if you are dehydrated is through your urine. If you are dehydrated, your urine will be a darker yellow color versus a lighter yellow color when you are hydrated.”

You may become dehydrated more easily if you are experiencing the flu, a stomach bug, vomiting or diarrhea.

When you’re dehydrated, you might experience

  • Thirst
  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue, low energy or lethargy
  • Headaches, light-headedness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Dry skin
  • Not peeing as often as normal

The simple fix is to drink water.

Can you drink too much water?

It is possible to drink too much water. Normally if you drink too much water, your body will just excrete that water through urine. Meaning you’ll likely have to pee a lot.

But you can experience overhydration, which can cause your body to feel bad, as well.

In worst case scenario, you can experience water poisoning or water intoxication. It’s rare to get water poisoning. It can lead to headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, fatigue. In severe cases, it can cause coma, seizures, brain damage and even death.

If you’re drinking a lot of water and start to feel unwell, stop drinking water immediately.

Signs of water poisoning:

  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling and discolored hands and feet
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or disorientation

If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing water intoxication, seek medical help immediately.

Last Updated: July 9, 2024

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise