Our obsession with water is based in logic and sound science but, honestly, there's so many other ways to stay hydrated. Options for fluid replenishment even go beyond the glass because many foods can legitimately plus up your daily liquid requirement.
Proper hydration is typically top of mind during the sweltering summer months, but it's just as relevant during high-energy, winter activities, such as skiing, when heavy clothing can contribute to sweating and fluid loss.
Fluids are essential for a host of critical body needs such as transporting nutrients into cells, cushioning joints, eliminating wastes, making saliva and regulating body temperature to name but a few. When body fluid levels get too low, dehydration sets in often accompanied by headaches, fatigue and muscle cramps.
To keep your levels up to par, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science has the following fluid recommendations, but these, too, will vary depending on age, activity level and climate conditions, such as humidity, altitude and temperature.
Men: 16 cups/day
Women: 13 cups/day
Because most Americans get 80% of their fluids from beverages and about 20% from foods, those government guidelines actually mean you should be drinking the following:
Men: 13 cups/day
Women: 9 cups/day
Many people never consider food as contributing to the fluid fill line. Best bets in this category include soups, stews, sauces, salads and other high moisture produce instead of more dry, dense foods such as breads and starchy vegetables. Caffeine still carries the stigma of being dehydrating, but this is not the case for all people. More recent studies have found that coffee, tea, colas and other caffeine-containing drinks do not negatively affect hydration for those who routinely drink caffeinated beverages.
What to Drink
Dr. Ann Grandjean, hydration expert, sports nutritionist and president of The Human Nutrition Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, suggests that people think of water as a nutrient (which it is) that can be obtained from multiple sources, just like vitamins and minerals which are found in various foods. So whether it's drinking water, juice, tea, countless other beverages or high moisture foods, it all physiologically does the same job for the body. But with so many beverages to choose from, what's the best choice? Here's a snapshot of some beverage categories that provide a wide range of choice whether your goal is nutrition, hydration or pure refreshment.
100% Fruit Juices: provide vitamins and minerals with carbohydrates derived from the naturally occurring fructose (fruit sugar) in fruits; no added sugar; Average 110 calories/8 ounces
Sports Drinks: provide electrolytes (sodium and potassium) to enhance fluid replenishment; helpful for endurance exercises but really not necessary for everyday use; Average 60 calories/8 ounces
Energy Drinks: provide added energy mostly in the form of caffeine but often with ginseng and other herbal additions; Average70 milligrams caffeine/8 ounces
Carbonated Soft Drinks: provide calories and little else; diet versions may use a variety of non- nutritive sweeteners; regular soda average 110 calories/8 ounces; diet soda average 0 calories.
Fitness and Flavored Waters: fitness waters have assorted added nutrients in varying levels while flavored waters tend to be simply that–flavor-enhanced with no other nutritional benefit Average 0-30 calories/8 ounces
Donna Shields, MS, RD, CPT is a registered dietitian with over 20 years of experience as a communications consultant in the food and beverage industry.
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