By Elizabeth Millard
Expert opinions about what’s healthy for you to eat are often annoyingly contradictory (we’re looking at you, eggs). But if there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on, it’s the importance of drinking plenty of water (and avoiding dehydration). Want to slim down, improve your fitness level, streamline digestion, or boost your mood? You guessed it: Drink more water.
How Much Water Do You Need?
The recommendation to drink 8 ounces of water eight times per day is oft-repeated, but experts question this piece of conventional wisdom. According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no single formula that works for everyone. For example, you might need more water based on your activity level, the humidity of your environment, and even gender: The Mayo Clinic notes that men need more water than women.
So, how do you know if you’re getting enough? Watch for signs of dehydration, which include urinating less often, dark-colored urine, extreme thirst, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, re-hydrate slowly: Sipping is much more effective than chugging, so your body has time to absorb the water.
And if chugging water starts to feel like a chore, there’s good news: There are ways to hydrate effectively that don’t involve drinking even more water.
4 Ways to Stay Hydrated
1. Eat electrolyte-rich foods.
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. They’re key for healthy nerve and muscle function — and they also help your body absorb fluids. You can often find electrolytes such as sodium chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, in sports drinks, but those are often loaded with sugar, artificial dyes and other less-than-desirable ingredients.
A better strategy, according to Tiffany DeWitt, R.D? Eat more foods rich in those minerals, These include bananas, avocados, Greek yogurt, kale, nuts, and spinach. Coconut water is also a good source of electrolytes and a refreshing post-workout drink.
2. Add more veggies.
Carbohydrates, particularly the unrefined kind, i.e. those coming from plant sources like fruits, vegetables, and legumes, also contain water. So adding even a few more servings of veggies per day can boost hydration, DeWitt notes.
3. Nosh on celery.
Sodium chloride in salt is a major hydration booster. That’s why hospitals often use a sodium solution for people who are dehydrated instead of pure water.
It’s not tough to find salt in a typical diet, but some foods are better than others. DeWitt recommends celery, whole-grain bread, and broth-based soups, all of which deliver nutrients in addition to salt.
4. Drink some milk.
In a British study, researchers found milk and orange juice had a higher hydration index than water, and that some drink choices like coffee, sports drinks, tea, and even beer can be just as hydrating as a glass of water. Milk, in particular, may be a top choice if you’re feeling dehydrated — which may be part of the reason so many marathon runners chug chocolate milk at the finish line. The researchers noted that milk contains sodium and potassium, which help the liquid absorb more fully into the body.