How to stay hydrated if you do not just want to drink glass of water

How to stay hydrated if you do not just want to drink glass of water

With summer finally upon us, hydration is more important than ever. If you do not get enough fluids to produce enough sweat on a hot day, you may be more vulnerable to heat stroke. Dehydration can be caused by extreme heat, but it can also aggravate other heat-related conditions such as heat cramps.

Taking in fluids is crucial, but hydration can go beyond just drinking water. The popular notion that we all need to drink eight glasses a day to get really hydrated remains, even though it has been revealed over and over again.

“There is really no data behind the eight glasses of water a day,” said Dr. Dan Negoianu, a nephrologist (someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating kidney problems and diseases) at the University of Pennsylvania. For example, “just because your urine is dark does not prove that you are dehydrated.”

Being hydrated simply means consuming enough fluids to the point where you are not thirsty, says Dr. Negoianu, and that amount varies for everyone.

There are lots of things besides plain water that will keep you hydrated, experts say: These include the foods and beverages that appeal to you, the things that will keep you consistently reaching for them. Here are some suggestions.

Look at your favorite fruits, vegetables and drinks

“We think we need to drink a lot of water all the time because we hear it all the time,” says Tamara Hew-Butler, a sports medicine researcher specializing in fluid balance. “You have to drink your eight glasses – moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.” But any food or drink that has a liquid content will be moisturizing, she says. “Your body does not care where the hydration comes from, it just needs fluid.”

Fresh fruits and vegetables are ideal sources because they not only tend to maintain a high water content, but they also have fiber, which provides other benefits to your diet and health. Melons, such as watermelon, honeydew or cantaloupe, are especially juicy. Strawberries, oranges, grapes, cucumbers and celery are also packed with water.

Drinks of all kinds can be moisturizing. Juices, milk, tea and coffee each contain fluid that your body can use. Drinks with a high sugar content may not be the best nutritional choice, but research shows that sugary drinks are as good as water to deliver fluid to your system. In the summer heat, of course, frozen desserts such as ice pops and sorbets are practical vessels for liquid consumption.

“You can achieve, and exceed, your daily fluid needs by consuming high-moisture beverages and foods without drinking a single glass of plain water,” says Hew-Butler.

Caffeinated beverages can also be moisturizing. Although caffeine is often considered a diuretic or dehydrating substance, research shows that consuming coffee or other caffeinated beverages has about the same moisturizing or dehydrating effects as if you only drank water – especially if you are a regular caffeine consumer.

If you have a significant amount of caffeine after a long period without it, you may experience a slight sweep of dehydration, says Kelly Hyndman, a researcher at the University of Alabama in Birmingham who studies kidney function and fluid retention. But otherwise, caffeine will not cause dehydration, she adds – at least not at the levels that people usually consume it.

Do not be afraid of salty foods

You have probably heard that salty foods are dehydrating, but that is not strictly true, says Hyndman.

Our bodies are constantly looking to maintain a salt-to-water balance, which they do with the help of a number of hormones. One of the most prominent of these is the antidiuretic hormone, or ADH.

When we consume a lot of salty foods at once, our brains will secrete ADH, which in turn tells our kidneys to hold on to the water, which prevents us from urinating out excess fluid. At the same time, the brain secretes another hormone, vasopressin, which is linked to feelings of thirst. Together, all of these hormones signal that you need more fluid. Consuming too much salty food is a problem only if you also ignore your thirst signals, says Hew-Butler.

If you are looking for salty foods that are moisturizing, olives and pickles are acceptable choices, although it is rare for people to consume them in large quantities. Soup, especially with water-based broths, can also help you get full on water.

But what is actually dehydrating is alcohol. “Alcohol suppresses ADH,” says Hyndman. So when you consume it, “you do not have this hormone that tells your kidney to resume water” and all the fluids you consume will go straight through you.

Make sure that children, the elderly and others are satiated

“Most of us who say we are dehydrated are probably not,” says Hyndman. Although there are probably some people who walk around a little dehydrated, she adds, the majority of people are sufficiently hydrated or even a little overhydrated. If you have complained that you have a small blister, or if you just urinate more often than you would like, you may not need to consume as much fluid – it just flows through you.

Those who need to be most diligent in actively moisturizing are children, older adults and people with underlying medical conditions, says Hyndman.

The rest of us simply need to have a drink or eat food full of fluids when we are thirsty, says Hew-Butler, and trusts our instincts. “We do not have to rethink it,” she says.

“I think the ‘drink when you are thirsty’ rule is one that is difficult to argue against,” says Negoianu, with the exception of medical conditions or extremely harsh environments that can cause abnormal water loss. “When it comes to the amount of water you need, it’s like Goldilocks and the three bears.”

Just as Guldlock had to decide for himself which porridge was exactly right, each person must find the liquid level that is just right for them and their situation. – This article originally appeared in New York Times

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