How to Hydrate

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HydrationEight – eight ounce glasses of water, are you kidding? That’s my most common question as a nutritionist and I used to reply the same thing to everyone. No, you actually need one half of your body weight in ounces of water.   Few people were happy hearing that answer.

Interestingly there is little scientific evidence on what the bodies need for water is. The reason for this is complex. First, most people do not have a good grasp on the feeling of thirst; myself included. I often confuse thirst with hunger and, when being good, grab an apple. The apple itself will hydrate me so the confusion isn’t fixed.   The second reason is that we are all different and we retain water at different levels. Your water need depends on how much or how little you exercise, your overall health, your genetics and the level of humidity in your environment.

Thirst is your body’s signal that you need to drink water, but by the time most of us feel thirst we are already dehydrated. Losing just two percent of the body’s water can hinder metabolic processes, create exhaustion and decrease athletic performance. Drinking enough water to satisfy your immediate thirst may not be enough to supply your body’s needs. It takes up to 24 hours to fully rehydrate cells.

Although sports drinks, energy drinks and vitamin waters sound appealing, thanks to marketing teams that rank in a purported twenty-six billion dollars in sales yearly, they are not the best choice. Water is the best thing you can drink to hydrate the body for its daily needs. According to exercise physiologists, specifically formulated sports beverages are needed only during ultra-long endurance events. If you exercise once a day for under 90 minutes then the normal food and drink you get throughout the rest of your day is enough to resupply the water, glycogen and electrolytes you need.

Manufactured drinks often contain simple sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose, dextrose or fructose and are linked to obesity, tooth decay, diabetes and osteoporosis. Sports and energy drinks or vitamin waters claim to have beneficial vitamins, but the levels of vitamins in these drinks is often low or not vitamins the American public is typically in need of.   They do not contain nutrients needed to round out the diet such as calcium, potassium, or folate and unfortunately, often contain significant calorie levels. A container of SoBe® Energize Citrus Energy™ for example has 250 calories and 63 grams of sugar; more carbohydrates than what most dieticians recommend per meal.

Juice is another suboptimal option.   Did you know that the recommended serving size for juice is only 4 ounces? You can use a little juice to flavor your water, but drinking a full glass of juice is not recommended due to the sugar content.   Do not use caffeine-containing beverages as fluid rehydration drinks either as caffeine acts as a diuretic and increases urine output causing dehydration. Caffeinated beverages also increase the amount of calcium excreted through urine increasing your long term risk for osteoporosis.   Alcohol as well as some prescription drugs can also dehydrate you.

A good indicator of your hydration needs, in addition to closely monitoring your level of thirst is the color of your urine. Ideally, urine should be a very pale yellow.   Pale yellow will be impossible to achieve if you have just ingested a vitamin containing vitamin B2, or riboflavin, but other than that it is a good marker. If your urine is dark yellow you are likely dehydrated.

Another thing to keep in mind when you grab something to drink is cost versus gain. A Jamba Juice® Acai Super-Antioxidant™ smoothie has 380 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 98 grams total carbohydrates including 5 grams of fiber, and 66 grams of sugar.   The Strawberry Surf Rider™ Smoothie has 103 grams of total carbohydrates and 93 grams of sugar! A better choice is an 8 ounce glass of water and a medium apple for only 50 calories, 0fat, 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of sugar.