Summer is a great time to start thinking about the liquids you drink. From water to patio margaritas we often consider beverages to be separate from our actual nutrition.
Our hydration determines how we clearly think, how energized we feel and even affects our body’s hunger signals. Most people need between 6 to 8 cups (1.5 to 2 Liters) of fluid per day. Hydration needs are calculated based on your body weight, age and activity level. When you exercise you need to replace water lost through sweat, on top of your regular requirements.
Water is the best choice for hydration. Tea, coffee (in moderation), soups, pop and juice all count towards fluid intake. Careful though – many beverages promote health benefits but actually just add unhealthy sugars to your diet. Sports drinks and water with vitamins are unnecessary unless you are doing physical activity for over 90 minutes. Otherwise, water is perfect to keep you hydrated.
Coconut water has small hydration benefits over sports drinks but will also add calories and sugar to your diet. Again, if you exercise less than 90 minutes at a time, water is all you need.
Another factor in our hydration is the weather. When it’s hot outside we sweat and breathe out more of our body’s water stores. If you don’t like water try adding slices of orange for a mildly sweet taste. Lemon or lime wedges add tartness; raspberries, blueberries or strawberries can make water more visually appealing which can help kids drink more too! If you drink alcohol try to alternate alcoholic beverages with water to prevent a hangover. Hangover symptoms are largely from dehydration due to the diuretic effect of alcohol.
Carry a water bottle at all times and try to refill a couple times per day. Avoid artificial sweeteners which can actually increase the body’s cravings for real sugar. Consumption of caffeine in moderate amounts will contribute to your overall fluid intake. However, caffeine in excess (over 400 mg per day which is 2.5 x (8oz / 250mL) cups of coffee or one Starbucks Venti) may contribute to dehydration as well as other unpleasant side effects which vary depending on individual tolerance. Decaf herbal teas (without added sugar) have a variety of health benefits and are a great option if you prefer hot liquids.
Lastly, our brain often interprets thirst as hunger. If you think hydration is a factor in your nutrition book an appointment with me and together we’ll determine if you are getting optimal amounts of nutrients and fluids that best supports your health.
By Lindsay Diack, RD