How much do you pay attention to your daily hydration levels?
Choose which of the options below reflects you:
1. Not at all; I drink when I’m thirsty.
2. Sometimes, when I’m active or in warm temperatures.
3. Most days; I have a plan.
4. Every day; I have a structured plan and ensure I get enough fluids daily.
The common strategy often used by many to improve and maintain their physical health and well-being includes exercise, diet and rest. The fourth element – often forgotten – is hydration. Many more fall into category one or two than three or four. Paying attention to hydration levels begins with making hydration a priority and a daily focus. Drinking fluids only when we’re thirsty is reactive and can have a negative impact on our overall sense of well-being.
The first step is to become aware of your hydration habits and to be more aware if you’re experiencing symptoms of dehydration. One way to determine whether you’re dehydrated or at risk for dehydration is to log your daily fluid intake pattern over a week. One simple way to do this is to enter your fluid intake in your Outlook calendar or day planner. The goal is to log your volume (such as 500 ml of water), time of day (between 1 and 1:30 p.m.) and type of fluid (bottle of water). Most of us, without knowing it, have a set of habits. Keeping a log can help you be more aware of those habits. It’s best to drink water throughout the day rather than just at one particular time.
One common sign that you may be dehydrated is fatigue and a lack of productivity. Another is having dark-coloured urine. Other signs are: dry mouth, headaches, dry skin, dizziness and decreased urine output. If you feel thirsty, this is a sign that you’re likely dehydrated or at risk of dehydration.
Focusing on hydration is like any other micro skill; it requires attention and follow-through. However, it may not be enough to just pay attention to your fluid intake. Though it’s important to stay hydrated, there can be some unintended consequences for ingesting certain kinds of fluids on a regular basis, such as unnecessary calories and excessive amounts of sugar, caffeine or alcohol.
Being hydrated in a healthy manner that is optimal for your body chemistry begins with awareness with respect to volume, frequency and type of fluid being consumed. To take accountability of your health and to maintain healthy hydration you need to make conscious decisions on not only the types of fluid you’re consuming but also the volume and frequency. It doesn’t have to be hard; simply sipping on a glass of water each hour at work will get you at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day – a positive lifestyle habit that supports healthy hydration.
One of the best fluids to digest is clean water, preferably out of a glass container. It’s wise to be mindful of the source and not to assume that water is clean. If you have your own well, test your water annually. If you’re drinking municipal water, know that it’s safe. Asking a few questions about water quality and safety is better than assuming.
Since water makes up approximately 60 per cent of our body weight, it’s an easy chemical for the body to process and utilize quickly to replenish what we sweat, burn and exert.
Tips for daily healthy hydration:
- Set your daily water intake target. A reasonable target as defined by the Mayo Clinic is about 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) of fluids for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) for women.
- Get a glass water bottle to use as your water container. It’s better for your health than a plastic bottle, and it can help you track your daily fluid intake.
- Be conscious of fluid choices. For some, water can become boring. To add flavour there are low-sugar options available at most grocery stores. Consider drinking sparkling water; its texture and bubbles can change the drinking experience.
- It’s okay to digest other kinds of fluids such as juice and milk. However, be mindful about how much you’re taking in and review the Canada Food Guide daily intake recommendations as a helpful guideline.
- Pay attention to the type of calories you’re digesting when attempting to hydrate. It’s easy to take in calories that may not be desirable or necessary. Health is about making good decisions, one decision at a time, such as a glass of water instead of soda. This simple choice supports both hydration and nutrition.
- As the weather warms, pay extra attention to your fluid intake to prevent dehydration. When you travel in your car or go for walks, it’s a best practice to ensure you have water with you in case you get delayed
Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.