With summer and rising temperatures fast approaching, it’s the time of year when we’re more likely to remember to stay hydrated. Fact is though, it’s important to hydrate no matter the season, and if you work-out a lot or spend a lot of time in the heat, it’s even more so. Though you might not think of hydration as being mission critical, your body knows otherwise and thirst is probably your most reliable indicator along with the color of your urine – but don’t wait till you’re parched. So, rather than putting yourself through the headaches, brain-fog, skin problems that dehydration can bring, here are a few pointers on how and why you need to top off your tank – and how to do it better:
1. Drink Better to Think Better
Your gray matter. Roughly 75% of it is water, so it’s easy to see why getting even moderately dehydrated can have a negative effect on brain function and cognitive performance. Studies indicate that hydration, or lack thereof, can impact mood, concentration, alertness and motor skills – as anyone who’s spent too much time in the sun, or suffered through a heat wave, can probably attest. Those feelings of confusion, brain-fog and headache are signals that you’re in serious need of fluids, but it’s best to hydrate with pure, plain water long before you get to that point. Next time you’re feeling mentally foggy, try drinking a glass of water or two to re-energize your brain instead of coffee or a sugary treat.
2. You’ll Breathe Easier
It’s not just your brain that needs regular H2O TLC, but also your lungs, which need enough hydration to keep its mucous lining from getting too thick. Without enough water, your lungs have to work harder to do their job of swapping oxygen for CO2. If you exercise regularly in an under-hydrated state, chances are you’ll boost inflammation and set yourself up for exercise-induced asthma. Keep your body – and, by extension, your lungs – well-watered and you’ll be breathing easier on the treadmill, elliptical or ‘round the track.
3. Give Sludgy Stomachs and Erupting Skin a Liquid Assist
When you’re not drinking enough, the colon has to look elsewhere to get the water it needs to function smoothly, so it winds up pulling water out of your stools, making them hard, and harder to eliminate. In other words, dehydration and constipation go hand in hand, so keep liquids flowing to aid digestion and facilitate elimination. Staying hydrated will enable what you eat to move more easily (and comfortably) though your body, and your digestive system to extract the nutrition and carry away the waste products: no pain, no strain. To help keep skin looking and feeling healthier, try scaling back on chemical-laden potions and pay more attention to staying hydrated instead. Hydration promotes circulation which enables the skin to facilitate healing and repairs, and flush away cellular debris as needed.
4. Every Color Tells a Story, Don’t It?
Not sure where you are on the dehydration scale? The color of your pee can speak volumes, so pay attention to the shade. Pale straw color is the norm, dark yellow means you need to top off your tank and if you hit amber or honey colored, don’t delay! For a full list of shades and what they mean in terms of your hydration levels, check out the Cleveland Clinic’s helpful infographic.
5. Dive Into the Water
When it comes to hydration, the general recommendation is 6 – to – 8 glasses a day, but keep in mind that’s just a baseline and one size does not fit all. Your prescription should be based on your individual needs, taking into account your age, weight, activity level, climate, etc. Another way to ballpark how much hydration your body needs is to simply drink roughly half your body weight – in ounces, that is! Though it may seem like a lot at first, better digestion, skin, lung and cognitive function are worth the effort, so why not dive in? How to track how much you’re drinking? Keep a glass carafe of water on your desk at the office to remind you drink up throughout the day.
Be Well Bonus: Drinks to Enjoy Every Day
As wonderful as plain, pure water is, if you’re drinking as much as you should be, on occasion, you might wish to jazz it up with a little flavor. Here are a few healthy ways to dress-up your drink, without messing up your water:
- Filter it – if you drink a lot of tap water, consider investing in a filtration system, like Aquasana
- Infuse it – with fruit slices, like lemon, lime and orange
- Spa it – add sliced mint and cucumber
- Green it – add green drink powder to your water for extra energy
- Make it – try this simple, DIY homemade sports drink recipe
- Bubble it – add a bit of festive fizz with an old-fashioned carbonator (or Sodastream drink maker)
Finally, avoid buying any of the premixed, additive-laden, artificially flavored liquid “flavor enhancers,” like Mio, Crystal Light, Dasani Drops, etc. – think of them as water pollution!
To learn more about filtering your water, check out Why You Simply Must Filter Your Water.
This article originally appeared on DrFrankLipman.com.
Image: Brendan C