Path to improved health isn’t as complicated as some might think. (Take care of the most basic first)
The first thing your body depends on to survive is water. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste, and lubricate your joints. Good hydration is the key for overall good health.
How much water should I drink?
The amount of water you should drink varies depending on your activity level, health conditions, height and weight, gender, and other factors. Here are some general guidelines, according to the Institute of Medicine:
- It’s recommended that men drink 13 cups (about 3 liters) of water each day.
- Women are recommended to drink 9 cups (just over 2 liters) of water each day. Pregnant women should drink 10 cups of water daily, and breastfeeding women should drink 12 cups.
- Kids and teens should drink 6 to 8 cups of water a day. Again, this all depends on activity level, age, weight, etc.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are full of water helps with this daily water intake as well. For guidelines specific to you, ask your doctor or dietitian what they recommend. Just make sure to limit sugary drinks that are high in calories.
Do caffeine drinks provide hydration?
Even some caffeinated drinks (for example, coffee, tea, and soda) can contribute a little to your daily water intake. A moderate amount of caffeine (400 milligrams) isn’t harmful for most people. Here are the caffeine amounts found in popular drinks:
- 12 ounces of soda: 30 to 50 milligrams
- 8 ounces of green or black tea: 30 to 50 milligrams
- 8 ounces black coffee: 80 to 100 milligrams
- 8-ounce energy drink: 45 to 80 milligrams
However, it’s best to limit caffeinated drinks. Caffeine will cause you to urinate more frequently. This can make it difficult to stay hydrated. It can also make you feel anxious or jittery. Overall, water is your best bet to stay hydrated. It’s caffeine-free, calorie-free, and readily available for most people.
Sports drinks can be helpful if you’re planning on exercising at higher-than-normal levels for more than an hour. They contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that can increase your energy. They help your body absorb water. However, some sports drinks are high in calories from added sugar. They also may contain high levels of sodium (salt). Check the serving size on the label. One bottle usually contains more than one serving. Some sports drinks contain caffeine, too. Remember that a safe amount of caffeine to consume each day is no more than 400 milligrams.
Are sports drinks good for me when I’m exercising?
Energy drinks are not the same as sports drinks. Energy drinks usually contain large amounts of caffeine. Also, they contain ingredients that overstimulate you (guarana, ginseng, or taurine). These are things your body doesn’t need. Most of these drinks are also high in added sugar. According to doctors, children and teens should not have energy drinks. Because these drinks have high amounts of caffeine, they do not offer good hydration.
Sports drinks are advertised to increase endurance and replace nutrients lost during intense exercise. But are they necessary?
These drinks contain electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium, as well as simple sugars (some may be sugar-free). However, these nutrients are generally only lost in large amounts during high-intensity exercise for one hour or more. Sports drinks may be useful for people doing intense exercise for a long time, especially if they’re sweating a lot. But for non-athletes, sports drinks are simply another sugary beverage.
Most people should drink water, not sports drinks, during their workouts.
Things to consider
If you don’t drink enough water, you may become dehydrated. This means your body doesn’t have enough fluid to operate properly.
Your urine can be an indicator if you’re dehydrated. If it’s colorless or light yellow, you’re well hydrated. If your urine is a dark yellow or amber color, you may be dehydrated.
There are other signs that can signal you may be dehydrated. They include:
- Little or no urine
- Urine that is darker than usual
- Dry mouth
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Extreme thirst
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- No tears when crying
Water is your best choice for health
You have many drink choices out there. At the end of the day, water is the first-choice beverage for best hydration. Drinking the right amount of water for your personal health and activity level is important. Try healthy add-ins like fresh mint, sliced cucumber, or lemon wedges to add flavor and variety to your water.
Making sure you get enough water every day is an important step in maintaining your health.