From eco-friendly bottles to flavor-infused waters, here are some great ways to stay hydrated
It’s a hot summer day and you’re thirsty—very thirsty. Just drink a glass of water and the problem is solved, right? Not so fast. According to the president of the American College of Sports Medicine W. Larry Kenney, PhD, “Thirst alone is not the best indicator of dehydration or the body’s fluid needs.”
So, when we drink to simply quench our thirst, we are not satisfying our total fluid needs. “Unfortunately, our brain signals us after it is too late,” according to Susan Ryan, MD, an emergency room physician in Denver, CO. According to Ryan, “most people don’t drink enough water, and therefore are not operating at peak efficiency.”
Importance of Hydration
The human body is made up of approximately two-thirds water. About 75 percent of the brain, 75 percent of muscle, and more than 90 percent of blood is water. As a result, nearly every bodily function depends on water.
- Transport oxygen and nutrients to our cells.
- Regulate body temperature.
- Lubricate and cushion joints and key organs.
- Remove toxic wastes.
Brain function, immunity, and elimination all rely on water. Water even helps us breathe. Having youthful skin also requires proper hydration.
“Dehydrated skin is a common problem,” explains Myra Eby, president and founder of MyChelle Dermaceuticals, a manufacturer of non-toxic skin care products. “A key cause of aging skin is lack of moisture. In order to have supple, soft skin, you need to drink plenty of fresh water frequently throughout the day.”
Water is especially beneficial to weekend warriors, exercisers, and athletes. According to Ryan, studies demonstrate that as little as two percent dehydration can significantly decrease athletic performance. “I have found that even sedentary people have improved vitality after they increase their daily water intake,” she says.
According to Ryan, symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, mild nausea, headaches, and dizziness. “In more profound states, we see weakness, increased heart rate, or serious confusion,” she explains. “Children, the elderly, people who exercise, and people living in hot, humid climates may have a greater risk of dehydration.” One of the best ways to tell if you are dehydrated is by the color of your urine. As a general rule, a well-hydrated body excretes lightly colored urine.
About 80% of our fluids come from water and other beverages, and the other 20% comes from food. Many fruits and vegetables are good sources of fluids, including watermelon, oranges, cucumbers, and lettuce.
The National Academy of Sciences reports that men need about 125 ounces and women need about 91 ounces of fluids each day. However, fluid needs are dependent upon many factors. For example, a 150-pound person who walks 30 minutes a day at a medium pace (about 4 miles per hour) should drink 84 ounces. If that same person walks for 60 minutes, they need 93 ounces.
To quickly calculate your hydration needs, simply divide your body weight in half and that will be the number of ounces you need each day. For every 20 minutes of exercise, add eight ounces to that number. If you drink alcohol, drink as much water as alcohol to offset the dehydrating effects of the alcohol.
Healthy Hydration Choices
With a bevy of beverages filling the shelves, you may think it is easy to avoid dehydration. But drinking just any fluid is not the best way to stay hydrated. Coffee, for example, is dehydrating because of the high caffeine content. Sodas and some sports drinks contain a lot of sugar, which can negatively affect health on many levels.
There are several naturally-sweetened beverages available, including carbonated waters, and herbal, flavor-infused varieties that won’t dehydrate you like caffeinated sodas.
Your best bet is with filtered or bottled spring water. For those who prefer flavored beverages, but without the sugar, try natural iced tea or filtered water, and natural sweeteners like stevia or xylitol, powders, or extracts, or fruit juice concentrates mixed in water. Coconut water (see sidebar p. 50) adds variety and may encourage you to drink more. Making healthy hydration choices enhances an active lifestyle.
H2O to Go
- Stylish, eco-friendly water bottles
- Stainless steel bottles are free of synthetic molecules found in some plastics called bisphenol-A (BPAs), and are environmentally friendly.
- For great on-the-go convenience, EcoUsable’s Ech2o Metallic Filtered Bottles have built-in filters that allow you to refill from the tap or even from streams.
- New Wave Enviro offers several styles and colors of lightweight stainless steel bottles so they are easy to carry even while cycling and hiking. The bottles hold anywhere from 12 to 40 ounces of water, and some have sports caps.
- Klean Kanteen has a range of colorful designs, and offers stainless steel bottles with loop caps, which make them easy to carry.
If you want a bottle that’s as active as you are, reach for the bottles with sports caps; the slim bottle design ensures that they’ll fit in cup holders and even most water cages on bicycles.
— Jack Challem
Tip: You can use coconut water (in place of regular water) to make almost any type of herbal tea, says Bruce Fife, ND, author of Coconut Water for Health and Healing.
Cuckoo for Coconut Water
When I first heard about coconut water, I was skeptical. It just sounded too good to be true. But one sip made me a believer.
Coconut water has long been served as a refreshing beverage in the hot and humid climates of South America and Southeast Asia. Over the past year or so, it has gained a loyal following in the United States, too. The reasons are simple: it tastes good, it’s loaded with good nutrition, and it’s natural. And it contains relatively few calories. What’s more, coconut water is often promoted as a mineral-rich rehydrating beverage for athletes—it restores fluids and minerals lost during exercise. For those who don’t routinely pump iron or pound the pavement, it’s a tasty beverage with a light coconut taste.
Either way, coconut water is one of the richest food sources of potassium, a mineral that’s good for the heart and blood pressure. A typical serving provides 660 mg of potassium, almost seven times more than what can be legally sold as a dietary supplement. Coconut water also contains magnesium and calcium, but no fat, no cholesterol, and very little sodium. The natural sugars, 14 g per serving, are a fraction of what’s in a soft drink.
— Jack Challem