(This column originally appeared unedited in the Today’s News Herald on March 31, 2022)
I was on a call last week when our temperatures were in the mid-90s and it was snowing in Wisconsin, so it’s a hard for me to say that it is beginning to warm up everywhere, but spring is upon us! It is a natural tendency in the cooler months to hydrate a little less, but now that temperatures are starting to climb, it is a good time to talk about hydration—what to drink and how much we need to drink.
Drink water. You do not need to go out and purchase fancy alkaline water, water enriched with different vitamins and minerals, or other advertised benefits. The health enhancements these products provide are anecdotal at best (remember our biased studies from a couple weeks ago?). Choosing the water you drink is purely out of preference, I fully appreciate the taste difference between tap water, reverse osmosis, water softener systems, bottled, and more.
Something I often hear regarding hydration is, “I don’t like drinking water. Can I hydrate with other liquids?” Sure! Most of your liquid intake ideally should be from water. Water helps carry many body processes, and if we’re consuming pure water, the body is having to do less work to put that water to work for our benefit. Here’s some things to keep in mind about some of those other beverages:
Coffee and tea: Nothing wrong here! Caffeinated coffee and tea can be dehydrating, and is ideally consumed in moderate amounts, but there are trace amounts of caffeine in decaffeinated versions that need to be considered. However, there are nutritional benefits that come from coffee and tea. Where coffee and teas can become counterproductive from the lens of hydration is the addition of sweeteners, syrups, and many of the add-ins to create fancy drinks.
Sports drinks: If you are exerting yourself, sweating excessively, outside for a long period of time, or engaged in sports or exercise activities, sports drinks can be a great way to aid in hydration to help replace essential electrolytes and nutrients that have been expended. These drinks often contain a high level of sodium, and other ingredients unnecessary for everyday use. (I will cover this more when I address pre-workout, post-workout, protein, and recovery drinks/supplements in a few weeks)
Sparkling/Bubbly waters: Go for it! The only thing to be aware of here is not every carbonated water is created equal. Read your label. Some of these products have additional sodium, artificial sweeteners, or pack a caloric load that you might not have been expecting because you assumed it was simply just water.
Juice: Some. There’s nothing wrong with juice. We love juice, but it’s the calories and nutrients of the fruit with the fiber (pulp of the fruit/veg) strained out. It can be refreshing, but not our greatest source of hydration. (More on juice at a later date)
This is by no mean an exhaustive list of the beverages that help our bodies maintain a great level of hydration (PS: alcohol consumption doesn’t make the list of items that hydrate us)—nor have I given you a prescriptive level of how much water you should consume in a day. Answer is, we’re all probably not getting as much as we think, and it’s probably not enough. I acknowledge it can be hard to consume enough water to feel adequately hydrated, and it comes from a place of privilege to suggest purchasing other options. Sometimes we can be creative with the water we have at our disposal to make it palatable, adding a few drops of fruit juice, crushing a few berries, a slice of citrus, or going savory with a sprig of herbs. Some of these add-ins can be sourced from social media pay-it-forward groups and apps like Nextdoor where neighbors share their abundance with each other. Regardless of how you’re getting your hydration, be sure to drink up!
If you’re not sure where to go next in your journey, but know you’re ready to do something, let’s have a conversation soon!