Drinking enough water is important for your health. If you ever suffer from fatigue, headaches, or dizziness, dehydration may be to blame.
However, it’s all too easy to skimp on fluids. Maybe you’re bored by the taste of plain water, or you simply forget to drink it. Sometimes, proper hydration just falls through the cracks.
Luckily, there are lots of ways to hydrate beyond drinking regular H2O from the tap. Here are nine clever ways to sneak in more fluids throughout the day (and have fun doing it). But first, some important information about why you need water, and how to tell if you’re getting enough.
Health benefits of hydration
“Water is one of the basic nutrients that our body needs,” says Asha Gullapalli, MS, RD, of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. “It helps to regulate body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, and keeps organs functioning properly. It also helps with sleep quality, cognition, and mood.” Adequate hydration can also prevent fatigue, dizziness, and headaches.
Long story short, if you’ve underdone it on fluids and feel icky, drinking more water may be the answer to your woes.
So, are you drinking enough water?
You’ve probably heard the old rule of thumb to drink eight glasses of water per day, but your hydration needs aren’t set in stone and may vary, based on different factors. For example, if you live in a warm area, are more physically active, or if you’re sick, you may need to up your fluid intake.
Instead of following a set number of glasses of water per day, pay attention to your body. The way you’re feeling can tell you whether you’re drinking enough. “Bad smelling urine and constipation are some of the signs of dehydration,” says Gullapalli.
The color of your urine can also tell you if you need to drink a few more glasses of water. Kristin Kirkpatrick, an RD at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, says that “you want your urine to be a faint yellow.” Dark urine may mean you’re not properly hydrated.
Also? “Don't drink only when you're thirsty,” says Jocelyn Wittstein, MD, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Duke University School of Medicine. “Thirst is actually a sign of dehydration.” In other words, by the time you feel thirsty, it’s already too late.
9 Ways to Hydrate (That Aren’t Totally Boring)
Do you have a hard time drinking enough water? You don’t have to get all of your fluids from plain water alone — a lot of foods contain H2O, and eating them can help you meet your daily hydration goals. Read on to find out nine creative ways to get more water in.
1. Eat soup for lunch
Having soup for lunch can “increase hydration levels,” says Kirkpatrick. The ingredients in soup, especially the broth, often contain high water content. Load your soup with water-rich veggies such as celery and tomatoes for an even more hydrating meal.
If you go for canned vegetables, make sure to choose low-sodium or no-sodium added varieties, as consuming too much salt can raise blood pressure and lead to other problems. If you can’t find low-sodium options, Kirkpatrick recommends rinsing canned veggies in a colander to wash off some of the salt. Frozen vegetables, she adds, can also be a healthy option.
Can’t stomach the thought of hot soup when it’s warm outside? Tangy chilled gazpacho is a yummy, cooler alternative, Kirkpatrick says.
2. Add a salad on the side
Salads are full of hydrating veggies, says Kirkpatrick. Lettuce is up to 96% water by weight, so even adding a small salad to meals can help you get more fluids into your body.
3. Keep H2O nearby
“Making hydration or hydrating foods or drinks accessible is really important,” says Kirkpatrick. When water is in sight, you’ll be much more likely to drink it. If you’re going to be driving around all day, leave a bottle of water or two in the car, or carry a reusable bottle.
4. Drink first thing in the morning
Did you know you lose fluid just by breathing while you sleep? To rehydrate, Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the owner of Olive Tree Nutrition in Georgia, recommends drinking water as soon as you wake up. Consider leaving a small glass of water by your alarm and sipping from it as you get ready for the day.
Drinking water in the early hours will also help you get a head start on your hydration. “A lot of people start to drink water after they have lunch, and they’ve missed a great opportunity to get fluid intake in the morning,” says Jessica Bennett, MS, RD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
5. Enjoy tea and coffee (but don’t overdo it)
“Tea and coffee can also count towards your daily fluid intake,” says Al Bochi. While caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it causes your body to get rid of extra salt and fluid, enjoying coffee and tea in moderation should not dehydrate you. So, if you’re working on drinking more water, you don’t have to completely discount your morning cup of joe.
Of course, don’t overdo it on caffeine, as too much can cause anxiety, nausea, and trouble sleeping. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, consider switching one (or more) of your morning mugs to half-caffeinated –– or, if you’re a tea drinker, swapping caffeinated tea for a naturally decaffeinated herbal variety.
6. Cool down your bev with frozen berries
Some berries contain upward of four ounces of water per cup. Plunking a few frozen ones into your drink will cool it down and add a nice fruity flavor. Eat ’em when you’re done sipping for a hydrating snack. Or, if you prefer room temp H2O, use watermelon chunks or orange slices.
7. Make mint ice cubes
Prefer a more classically refreshing taste? You can make ice cubes using mint or other herbs, points out Sara Haas, RDN, a consultant culinary dietitian and author.
All you need to do is put mint leaves in an ice tray, cover with water, and freeze for several hours. Haas recommends pairing mint with berries. Other tasty options, she says, are basil with lime, or cilantro and watermelon.
8. Buy a fun water bottle
Drink water out of something that you “like looking at and makes you happy,” Haas says. Bennett agrees. You may be “be more likely to drink,” she says, from a bottle you like carrying around.
For a kid-friendly craft, decorate a reusable water bottle with stickers, magazine cutouts, or printed photos. Complete the look with some ribbon or yarn.
9. Take it slow
The last thing to remember is to not put too much pressure on yourself to ramp up your fluid intake overnight. “It’s really best to start where you are,” says Bennett, “and take in one extra cup of water each day if you can.” Otherwise, you may get discouraged with how far you have to go, and give up all together.
Pace yourself: Switch out one snack per day with a water-rich fruit, or pour an extra mug of herbal tea in the afternoon. You’ll be better hydrated before you know it.