Daily Nutrition & Health
How to Hydrate Fast and What Liquids Count as Water Intake?
Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training Jul. 24, 2023
Did you just finish a long run, workout session or yoga class? It’s time to rehydrate! After a hard workout, your fluid losses need to be replaced. This is especially true during the hot summer months since heat and humidity can accelerate fluid losses and make it even harder to stay well hydrated. Let’s find a healthy and quick way to rehydrate so you stay on track with your health goals.
How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?
Water is vital for the proper function of virtually every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Your age, size, gender and physical activity level will help determine your water needs as well as the current climate.
As a general rule, according to the Institutes of Medicine, the recommended daily fluid intake is about 11 cups for adult women and 15 cups for adult men. That sounds like a lot, but not all of it needs to come from beverages alone.
Here are a few reasons why hydration is so essential:
- Water is needed for proper digestion and delivery of nutrients to your cells.
- It helps regulate your body temperature.
- Water acts as a “shock absorber” for the brain and spinal cord, and it lubricates joints, organs and tissues.
- Water helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and is a key component of lymphatic fluid, thus supporting the health of your immune system.
- Adequate water intake may even help you manage your weight.
What Liquids Count as Water Intake? Does Coffee or Tea Count?
About 70 to 80 percent of your fluid intake should be provided by beverages – and at least half of that from water, with lesser contributions from tea, coffee, milk and other beverages. The remaining 20 to 30 percent should come from watery foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Many people wonder if drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea count toward hydration goals or against them. The good news: moderate amounts of caffeine will not deplete the water in your body.
But do watch the calories in those fancy coffee drinks – large amounts of cream and sugar add-ons can rack up calories quickly.
Dehydration Signs and Symptoms
When you’re not properly hydrated, your body sounds an alarm that shows itself first as thirst and dry mouth. Signs that you may not be taking in enough fluids might also include:
- Dark urine
- Bad breath
- Muscle fatigue
By the time your thirst mechanism kicks in, you’re already fairly dehydrated, so it’s important to stay on top of your fluid intake during the day. It’s also critical to make sure infants and small children get enough fluids as well – a recent meta-analysis indicated that children globally are not consuming enough water to be adequately hydrated.
Dehydration can result from simply not drinking enough fluids during the day, but other circumstances can contribute. If you’ve had diarrhea or vomiting, or if you’re running a fever, you need extra fluids.
When you’re exercising, it’s important to keep your fluid intake up. Not only during the activity, but after, too. Make sure that you adequately replace fluid losses once you’ve finished your activity. Some athletes make a habit of weighing themselves before and after activity to see how much fluid needs replacing. For every pound of weight that’s lost during activity, you need to drink about 2 to 3 cups of liquid to replace the fluid losses.
Are Sports Drinks and Electrolyte Drinks Good for You?
If you are working out intensely for longer than 30 minutes or in a hot and/or humid environment, you may need to supply your body with more than just plain water – both during and after exercise.
When you sweat, you not only lose water but important minerals – like sodium, chloride and potassium – that need to be replaced. These body salts, often called electrolytes, participate in many body processes but are especially important for the proper function of your nerves, muscles, heart and brain.
Electrolytes can be replaced with specially designed sports drinks that provide fluid and the right balance of electrolytes that have been lost through perspiration. Some even provide carbohydrates, which can be a source of energy during exercise. Another plus to sports drinks is their usually mild and slightly sweet taste that can encourage you to drink more.
How to Hydrate Quickly: Creative Ways to Up Your Fluid Intake
We all know we should drink water, but we don’t always set ourselves up for success. Here are some ideas to encourage daily hydration:
- Start your day with a big glass of water before your coffee or tea – you’ll create a good habit that can last a lifetime.
- Review the situation at work. If you tend to spend a lot of time at your desk, set a pitcher of water on your desk each morning. It will serve as a reminder to drink more, and you’ll be motivated to sip on it as the day goes by – meeting your goal of finishing it.
- If you’re on your feet or in the field, make sure you have convenient access to water or bring a water bottle with you.
- Set a timer or use an app on your smartphone or smartwatch that can help remind you to drink more water as you go about your day.
- Make it interesting: add in citrus, herbs, fruit or a splash of juice to ramp up the taste; go for a bubbly, unsweetened option; have some tea with lemon; keep a pitcher in the fridge for a nice, icy blast on a warm day.
- Include more watery fruits in your diet – all fruits and veggies are good, but especially melons, leafy greens and cucumbers.
- Consider having soups before meals; they can help hydrate you and make your meal more filling.
Keeping yourself hydrated and rehydrating quickly after fluid loss can help your body maintain and perform the way you need it.