How to Stay Hydrated

You’ve probably heard numerous times that you should “stay hydrated,” especially in the summer months. But what does that mean exactly, and why is hydration so important?

Here’s what you need to know about hydration, including tips and tricks so that your body works in top form.

Benefits of Staying Hydrated

So, how does hydration benefit your body? Getting adequate fluids helps you:

— Avoid dehydration

— Curtail illness

— Prevent constipation

— Stay cool

Avoid dehydration

This one sounds obvious, yes. But dehydration can negatively affect so many bodily functions, including cardiovascular health, kidney function and electrolyte balance. So, it’s important to make sure you drink not only the right fluids, but enough fluids to maintain an appropriate balance in your body. In general, aim for a minimum of eight 8-ounce cups per day. This can vary based on a person’s age and size. Younger kids might aim for five to six cups per day, while older teenagers may require more than 10 cups per day.

Curtail illness

Drinking enough fluid can help boost immunity. It’s also extremely important to stay hydrated when you’re already sick. Be sure to sip on fluids throughout the day, especially if you have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. These are some of the leading causes of dehydration in children.

Prevent constipation

Adequate hydration is the key to staying regular, especially for children. Often, children complain about constipation, and it turns out they aren’t drinking nearly enough fluids throughout the day. Fiber and food choices are important, but don’t overlook drinking enough water.

Stay cool

Staying hydrated helps regulate your body temperature. Your body’s natural way of regulating your temperature is by producing sweat, so you’ll need to have enough water in your system for your body’s cooling mechanisms to work properly.

[Read: Signs of Heat Stroke and Hot Weather Safety Tips]

Who Should Be Especially Concerned About Staying Hydrated?

Everyone needs to stay properly hydrated, but some population groups are more vulnerable to risks associated with not getting enough fluids, including:

— Anyone using diuretics, a type of medication that removes extra salt and water from the body when you urinate, is at higher risk for dehydration. Always check with a health care provider to confirm how much extra fluid you may need when using a diuretic or any type of medication.

Athletes will sweat, using up the body’s hydration stores. More exercise will up your hydration needs.

— Children may be less attuned to when they’re thirsty, and need help maintaining hydration levels.

— Older adults may experience dehydration without realizing it, as our sense of thirst decreases with age.

— Pregnant or breastfeeding women have increased hydration needs to support a child.

— Those living or working in hotter climates will require more fluids. The same applies if you work indoors but in a hot environment, such as a warm warehouse or database storage facility.

Kelly Jones, a Philadelphia-based board-certified sports dietitian for athletes and active families, says that people in certain careers may be more at risk for dehydration. This might seem obvious for certain careers that require more exertion, like farm workers, landscapers, construction workers and mail carriers. However, she also says that “anyone in careers where they are not only on their feet most of the day, but also spend a lot of time speaking or even singing can lose more fluid through respiration than the average person.”

[See: Best Products for Summer Health Hazards]

What Should I Drink?

The short answer: Water. There’s truly nothing better and nothing that your body needs more than good old-fashioned water. If plain old water sounds boring, then here are some other options to supplement your water intake:

Unsweetened tea. You can have unsweetened plain tea or try flavored versions that are still unsweetened. Just make it decaf for the kiddos.

Infused water. You can infuse water with just about anything. Take any fruit from your fridge or freezer and let sit in water overnight to naturally infuse some flavor. Try combinations like mango and strawberry, apple and cinnamon or blueberry and mint. You can also add herbs like mint and rosemary. Another option is adding just a splash of 100% fruit juice or enough to add flavoring without adding too much sugar or too many calories. Get creative!

Naturally flavored sparkling waters. Nowadays, you can find cans of fizzy sparkling water. Look for those that are flavored with fruit essences, rather than artificial sweeteners. If you’re going to choose one with an artificial sweetener, use Stevia or monk fruit, advises Chelsea LeBlanc, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Chelsea LeBlanc Nutrition in Nashville, Tennessee.

Low-fat milk or unsweetened milk alternatives. Low-fat milk or unsweetened milk alternatives, like oat milk or almond milk, can provide certain nutrients and add variety.

[Read: What Is Alkaline Water? Is it Good for You?]

Is There Anything I Shouldn’t Drink?

Avoid any drinks that have sugar. Soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea and lemonade or sugary coffee drinks are some clear culprits. But some less obvious sugary drinks include sports drinks and juice, especially for children. Here are a few more details on why children should steer clear of these drinks as much as possible, even when aiming to stay hydrated:

Sports drinks

All sports drinks contain added sugar. These drinks are sometimes recommended if you’re exercising and sweating for more than one hour. But if you’re moving for less than one hour, water is enough. Kids who are inactive don’t need any sports drinks at all. If needed for sports, try an electrolyte tablet or packet to add to water rather than a sugary sports drink.


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no added sugar for kids under 2. This includes most juice, as even 100% natural juice is highly concentrated in natural sugar. One 15.2-ounce bottle of 100% juice has about 45 grams of sugar. This is equal to more than three oranges. It adds up very quickly.

For adults, in addition to avoiding drinks with a lot of sugar, steer clear of alcoholic drinks when you’re focused on hydration. That’s because these actually dehydrate you.

Some caffeinated drinks, including coffee and tea, can count toward your fluid intake. They may make you urinate more, but that’s balanced by the fluid that they contain.

Tips to Increase Water Intake

Sometimes we just don’t think about drinking enough to stay hydrated. If you find you need to concentrate more on getting enough water and other fluids to stay hydrated, here are some tips:

— Make it fun

— Set alarms on your phone

— Tie it to your routine or with other habits

— Eat more vegetables and fruits

— Drink even before you feel thirsty

— Check your pee

Make it fun

There are so many fun water bottles on the market now that are full of different colors and fun characters. Get yourself and each child a water bottle that’s their own. Some have time stamps on them; these can be helpful for the busy bee who doesn’t stop to drink.

Set alarms on your phone

“For some clients, I suggest changing the text of their morning alarm with a written reminder to ‘Wake up with a cup,'” says Chelsey Amer, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Chelsey Amer Nutrition. Then, you can set other alarms throughout the day to remind yourself to sip regularly.

Tie it to your routine or with other habits

One easy way to boost hydration is with something called habit stacking, says Jones. Habit stacking involves pairing a habit you want to form with something you already do on auto-pilot. For instance, you can plan to have a glass of water every day after you brush your teeth in the morning, during a regular morning meeting or during your commute home. In the evening, when you sit down for your favorite show, bring a big glass of water and aim to finish it by the time an episode ends.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Fruits and veggies can be high in water content, and this counts toward hydrating you. Some fruits and veggies high in water content include:

— Celery

— Cucumbers

— Grapes

— Lettuce

— Watermelon

Drink even before you feel thirsty

“I often remind my clients that by the time you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated,” LeBlanc says.

That can lead to health effects like headaches and fatigue. So, whether you’re at the beach, doing yardwork or even just working like normal, take regular sips of liquid throughout the day. This is especially important when you’re flying, which also creates the need for having more fluid.

In fact, “when you start to feel thirsty, you may already have reached a 1-2% fluid loss,” says Jones. “At 2% losses, energy metabolism and endurance capacity start to be impacted.”

Especially for athletes exercising in the heat, your level of thirst isn’t a reliable way of determining whether you’re hydrated, so it’s important to hydrate no matter how you’re feeling for health and performance.

Check your pee

A very light yellow color means you’re likely getting enough liquid, LeBlanc says. A darker color indicates you should drink up. However, clear urine can be a sign that you’ve overdone it, which can lead to electrolyte imbalance.

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How to Stay Hydrated originally appeared on

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