Feeling Dehydrated? Here’s How to Hydrate Like a Boss

By Anthea Levi

We all know it’s important to drink water but … why? And how much water do we really need to drink daily? What about if you’ve overdone it a wee bit at the weekend’s holiday party and are hung over? We’re breaking down the basics of healthy hydration, from the signs and symptoms of dehydration to the healthiest ways to rehydrate, fast.

How Much Water Do I Need Daily?

You’ve probably heard that you should be drinking eight glasses (or 64 ounces) of water daily. Or maybe you’ve been told to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water each day (or 75 ounces for a 150-pound person).

These guidelines are a helpful place to start, but hydration needs vary considerably from person to person. Factors like body size, climate, physical activity level, alcohol consumption and the medications you take also influence how much water you need to consume.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?

There are a few ways to gauge your hydration status. The most obvious is the sensation of thirst. If you feel thirsty, you’re probably already slightly dehydrated.

Another helpful indicator is the color of your pee. The next time you go to the bathroom, take note of your urine. If it’s pale yellow, you’re likely well-hydrated. If the color is darker—think: a concentrated yellow or amber-colored—there’s a good chance you need to drink up.

Other common signs and symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and thirst, fatigue, weakness, confusion and (not surprisingly) infrequent trips to the bathroom.

On the flip side, it is possible to overdo it on H2O. That is, if your pee is consistently colorless, you may be drinking too much water, which can mess with electrolyte balance in the body over time. Remember: go for gold! Or, um, pale yellow …

What Are the Best Ways to Stay Hydrated?

Here are our top three favorite ways to stay on top of your hydration game.

1. Drink Enough Water (Gasp!)

Start by making it a goal to hit eight glasses of water per day, then increase that number based on your thirst, energy levels and—you guessed it—the color of your urine. If you’re taking medications like diuretics or laxatives, talk to your doctor about your daily water needs. And, remember, alcohol is a diuretic, so if you’ve been indulging more than usual over the holidays, make sure to drink even more water.

Find plain water boring? Pump up the flavor profile by adding fresh fruits or vegetables such as cucumber slices or pineapple to your pitcher. You can also count unsweetened herbal teas or a seltzer towards your daily water intake.

RELATED: Give Bloat the Boot! These 9 Teas Will Help Relieve Bloating

2. Eat the Rainbow

Speaking of fruits and veggies, they’re full of water! Celery, cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes are all up to 95% water by weight, while watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit and cantaloupe are more than 90% water by weight.

Don’t count your watermelon snack as one of your glasses of water for the day, but do know that certain foods can help keep us hydrated. Consider it one more reason to load half your plate with fruits and veggies at meals.

RELATED: 13 Hydrating Foods to Eat to Boost Your Water Intake

3. Sip Smarter

Sure, water is important, but sometimes our bodies need an extra boost from oral rehydration solutions (ORS). ORS include beverages like Pedialyte that provide sugar and electrolytes, but can also be full of unwanted ingredients. When it comes to rehydrating fast, we recommend making your own ORS with a clean and simple recipe.

Friendly reminder: Electrolytes include minerals such as the potassium, sodium and magnesium that are involved in everything from fluid balance and muscle contraction to blood pressure regulation in the body.

When we lose a lot of fluid, be it from vomit or diarrhea during an illness or sweat in a tough workout class, we also lose ‘lytes. That’s a problem, since low levels of electrolytes are associated with muscle cramps, not to mention the hallmark signs of dehydration.

RELATED: Why You Really Need to Pay Attention to Hydration During Winter

How do you know when you need to replenish ‘lytes? Experts recommend reaching for an electrolyte drink instead of plain old H2O if you’re exercising for more than 75 minutes or working out in a very hot and humid environment. Ditto if you’ve been throwing up or dealing with diarrhea for a day or more due to an illness.

We recommend choosing an electrolyte drink that’s low in added sugars. Here are a few options:

  • Nuun tablets: We love that these electrolyte tablets provide minimal added sugars, plus all the important minerals.
  • Halo Sport: Halo includes vitamins A.C and E for immunity, a full spectrum of 72 ionic trace minerals, and naturally-occurring electrolytes from Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
  • Ultima Replenisher: These zero-calorie packets come in fun flavors like blue raspberry and cherry pomegranate. The only drawback: They’re fairly low in sodium, one of the key electrolytes we need to replenish when dehydrated.
  • Harmless Harvest Coconut Water: Refreshing and all-natural, coconut water is another option that offers more potassium than plain water (though it’s low in sodium). Though coconut water is naturally sweet, its sugars can add up quickly: Just one cup of coconut water can deliver about 14 grams of natural sugar.

Want to DIY? Make your own oral rehydration solution at home by combining 1 quart of water with ¾ of a teaspoon of table salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cheers!

(Image: Shutterstock)

About Anthea Levi
Anthea Levi, MS, RD, is a Brooklyn-based registered dietitian and health reporter. She currently works in private practice at Culina Health and contributes to various media outlets, including Livestrong.com and Nutritious Life.

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