Let’s start with the basics; Hydration. Water is the most basic compound you can put in your body to improve health and yet many of us do not get enough of it and engage in habits that actually decrease our level of hydration (hello coffee addiction).
So why is water so important?
Every cell in our body requires water to function properly. We also need water to; regulate body temperature, transport and dissolve nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, create the fluid which cushions our joints, support proper brain function, protect sensitive tissues and eliminate toxins from our body.
What does dehydration do?
Even mild dehydration (a loss of 1.5% of normal water volume in the body) can affect mood and motivation, reduce cognitive and motor skills, make you more sensitive to pain and affect memory
Soft drinks, coffee and tea are all diuretics which means that they cause an increase in water loss through urination. So, if any of these drinks are your primary source of fluids you are not really increasing your level of hydration.
In addition to daily metabolism and diuretics, air travel causes dehydration to accelerate.
How much should you drink?
Since the average adult can lose up to 2L of water per day through perspiration, urination and breath it is important to replace at least this amount each day. Drinking 8, 8oz glasses of day is often touted as the goal for hydration however, at slightly less than 2L this does not even cover what the average adult will lose daily and does not take into consideration such factors as increase physical activity, climate, and pregnancy/lactation which can all increase the body’s need for water. If you want to increase your hydration and as a result health you will need to take in more fluids than that.
So how do you increase hydration?
If you are not used to drinking a lot of water, it is important to start slow and increase your water intake over time. Start by adding 1 cup each day over the course of a week so that by the end you are drinking;
1.5 cups (375ml) of water first thing in the morning, even before your morning coffee or tea. This will kick start your digestion and has been shown to improve weight loss as a bonus.
Then sip on 1 cup (250ml) of water mid-morning,
1 cup (250ml) of water 1/2 hour before lunch,
1 cup (250ml) mid-afternoon,
1 cup (250ml) 1/2 hour before dinner,
1 cup (250ml) of water in the early evening and
1.5 cups (375ml) of water 1 hour before bedtime.
This gives you your 2L or 8 cups of water daily. To increase hydration from this point you can add an additional cup to the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, add soups and water based fruits and vegetables to your diet and eliminate dehydrating soft drinks, tea and coffee.
If you are not a big fan of plain water you can try herbal teas. There are many herbal teas on the market that are also beneficial to health. I have listed a few of my favourites and what they are known for. Try incorporating these into your mid-morning, mid-afternoon and early evening for additional benefits.
chamomile – calming, good for early evening/night.
peppermint – can be calming or invigorating depending on the person so try it to see what effect it has on you and use accordingly. Peppermint tea is also a great digestive aid after large meals.
green tea – there are many proven health benefits to green tea however it is caffeinated (but still has only a fraction of the caffeine that coffee has) so it is better to use during the day.
As well, you can increase the health benefits of your water by adding cucumber and/or lemon to improve digestion and weight loss.
Please share your favourite way to stay hydrated in the comments below!