As you certainly know by now if you follow me on Instagram (sorry for the photo flood!), I’ve been in Arizona with work this weekend. It was great overall (aside from the whole “meetings on a weekend” thing) … I got in some relaxing kayaking, some beautiful (hilly!) runs, and a lot of catching up with colleagues I haven’t seen in a while.
However … I did something I haven’t done in a while. I got dehydrated! Between the very dry climate, the outdoor activities, the different-than-usual schedule (making constant water drinking less natural than usual), and (…ahem…) the cocktail hours every night, I let my #1 health tip of all time slide.
Quite often, when someone talks to me about their health goals or a problem they’re experiencing, the first question that I’ll ask is how much water they’re currently drinking per day. Most people are quick to say they drink plenty of water, or that water canNOT be the issue, but did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated? (I’m sure this applies to citizens of many other countries, as well, even without the data to back it up). It sounds like a simple – and silly – solution, but I truly believe that almost everyone would be healthier if they drank a bit more water. I’ll share 7 thoughts about water and hydration with you today, and I hope you challenge yourself to pay a bit more attention to your water intake this week (and beyond!). (picture source)
- Soda vs. water: Here’s an interesting (and depressing) statistic: in 1998, Americans averaged 54 gallons of soda per person, and only 42 gallons of water!!! (Today, we’ve improved to 44 gallons of soda vs. 58 gallons of water, which still leaves some room for improvement!). If you can’t get by without your soda, I’d recommend alternating one glass of soda with one glass of water, or making sure you consume the two side-by-side. Or, try club soda or naturally-flavored sparkling water, both calorie-free and tasty ways to get your fix of fizz!
- How much water do you need: You’ve probably heard the common advice that we need 8 glasses of water (or 64 oz.) per day. Is that always right? Well, I think the “right” amount varies dramatically by person, and even by day … the right amount for you depends on your level of exercise, the temperature, your unique body composition, and even your hydrating food intake (fruits, vegetables, and soups all contain tons of water, which really add up and lessen the amount of pure water that you need to drink). The color of your urine is really better gauge (sorry, but it’s true!). I’m certainly not recommending you carry around a chart like this every day (and you should have SEEN the horrified look Kevin gave me when I told him I was going to include this), but it’s helpful to take a quick glance to know if you need to boost your water intake. (picture source)
- Sports drinks: This is a topic that I’d like to go more into later, but suffice it to say that I believe sports drinks (like Gatorade and Powerade) are far overused. If you’re going out for a 20-minute walk in cool temperatures, first, congratulations!, but second, you do NOT need to down a monster-sized Gatorade. In general, I think sports drinks should be limited to exercise over an hour, at a medium- to high-intensity, and/ or in hot conditions. For most other exercise, water should suffice!
- Dehydrating beverages: I’ve told you that fruits, veggies, and soups “count” towards your hydration, so do coffee and wine “count” as well? Not so fast. Recent research has suggested that coffee is not actually dehydrating (aside from a very mild dieuretic effect). I like to consider coffee as a “neutral,” and I consider alcoholic beverages and soda as “negative” (meaning I need to drink more water to make up for any alcohol or soda I consume). Herbal tea is hydrating, so go ahead and count it towards your hydration goals!
- Instant signs of dehydration: A few instant signs of dehydration include fatigue, headache, cramping, bad mood, worse athletic performance, and constipation. Another instant sign may be hunger – as I mention in my post including 7 Tips to Control Snacking, we often mistake hunger and thirst, which causes us to eat when we’re actually thirsty! When I am personally dehydrated, I get a throbbing headache at the nape of my neck and the front of my forehead, but symptoms can totally depend on the person. When my dad is dehydrated, he wakes up in the middle of the night with painful foot cramps.
- Longer-term benefits: lower cholesterol (both my mom and my mother-in-law lowered their cholesterol dramatically, and I believe that increasing water intake and reducing sugar were two of the main reasons!), lower blood pressure, lower incidence of digestive diseases, and weight loss (or prevented weight gain).
- Infographic: check out this awesome infographic for a few more fun facts about water! (picture source)
Last, but not least … the giveaway winner! I couldn’t be happier for this person to win, as I’ve enjoyed following along with her running journey, and I know she’s been experiencing some injury issues lately. I think compression socks might be a big help! Amy, please send me your mailing address, and I’ll get your Eurosocks compression socks on the way! (Winner chosen by Rafflecopter and powered by Random.org)
So tell me in the comments … can you tell when you are dehydrated? What do you do to make sure you’re drinking enough water?
Glad you had such a good weekend! I love AZ. And water. People are amazed when I tell them how much I drink (at least a gallon a day), but I can’t imagine not doing it now.
I’m winning all kind of awards for these 12-day-late comments, so sorry! Totally hear you on not being able to imagine not drinking the water – people often comment on how much water I always have on my desk but I never even think about it anymore!
I have always been a morning runner (since ’89), so when I ‘got serious’ a year and a half ago and went from 15 mile weeks to 50+ miles, I upped my water intake and have done well there. It it the daytime long runs that were a challenge – I ended up getting a 25oz Camelbak bottle an a 70oz Camelbak backpack, and have been all set since.
At my desk at work I have a 1 liter tupperware bottle I fill every morning that really helps.
But this weekend I had a marathon – and it was crazy warm and humid for October in western NY! It started in the low 60s with clouds and light rain … but soon the sun was beating down and it approached 80 with high humidity! I definitely felt some cramping and knew I was dehydrating – and I kept getting at least 2 cups at every water stop … even when they came every mile! Loads of people dropped (nearly a third according to race numbers) and the medical people were crazy busy.
I just kept hydrating all afternoon and night, and finally passed ‘the pee test’ before going to bed … but it is crazy getting that dehydrated!
Sorry I missed this comment, Michael. I know I already congratulated you on the marathon, but congrats again!! 🙂 I didn’t realize you were doing 50+ miles per week – that’s awesome!
I can really tell in recovery when my body is dehydrated. I try to focus on getting enough water EVERY day and I have noticed a big difference when I’m running on recovery!
Hydration is so important and can help your body in so many ways!
thanks for such an informative post! I went through a stage a few years back where I drank too much water and it affected my sodium levels (i think, this was in High school when the teacher said drink 2 L a day- I clearly went overboard!) I always carry a water bottle with me wherever I go- although the frequent bathroom trips are a pain in the derrier. 😉
I always carry a water bottle around, too – so helpful! I hear you that the frequent bathroom trips are a pain, but the side effects of being dehydrated are an even BIGGER pain! I also think of it as a good excuse to stand up every hour since I’m often sitting in front of my computer for 15 hours a day – yikes!
I run in the mornings and it is so hard for me to catch up. Most days I am fairly dehydrated until the afternoon. I lose a lot of water running and have such a difficult time replacing it all. It doesn’t help that I am likely already dehydrated when I wake up!
Dave, I’m the same way. I try to drink water before going out to run, but if I drink too much my stomach gets upset. I started keeping water by my bed at night, and every time I wake up I try to drink several big sips – this has really helped. At the very least, be sure drink a ton of water when you get back from your run!
I have also started to think about investing in something that enables me to easily drink water while running.
Definitely not a bad idea, especially as your runs get longer. I have tried several options, and most waistbands bounce around too much for me, but I like my Nathan Hydration Belt the best. (This link shows the version I have). Some of the smaller handheld carriers also work well, and many people like the running Camelbacks, but I already sweat too much and something on my back doesn’t really appeal to me.
yay for Amy!!!
This is going to sound crazy but I recently found out I’ve been overhydrating…I drink wayyyy too much water which as a result makes me extremely thirsty and nutrient deficient. Sounds kind of nuts and it’s been really hard to not drink as much (because my mouth is so dry) but hopefully it’ll get better. If you didn’t think I was crazy already this may have sealed the deal.
Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend Megan!
Oh wow, Davida! I don’t think you’re crazy at all – it’s great that you’re so on top of things and were able to figure that out. Over-hydration IS a serious issue, too, it’s just that a vast majority of people are under-hydrating, so most people (like me) give more attention to this. Have you checked out your blood electrolyte levels to make sure everything’s back in line? Hope you’re having a great weekend too 🙂