How does water affect your overall health? Let's explore some strategies to stay properly hydrated throughout the day.
It’s common knowledge that water is required for survival. But high achievers like you don’t want to merely survive; you want to thrive! And that requires your body to be functioning in optimal health. How much water, then, is necessary for optimal health?
How Much Water Do You Need?
It's not 8-8oz glasses a day!
The typical recommendation of 8, 8-oz glasses per day has no real scientific basis, but the need for adequate hydration does. In this article, I'll show you how that typical recommendation is inadequate for optimal health, how much water is enough for your unique needs, and six strategies to help you build an optimal hydration habit.
A More Scientific Recommendation
Years ago, I wrote a book (a whole system really) called the Healthy Habits System (you can still find it on Amazon here).
The Healthy Habits System recommends this simple equation to determine how much you should drink:
Your body weight in pounds / 2 = ounces of base hydration needed
Meaning, if you did absolutely nothing during the day – no sweating, no moving, no eating, no medications, no drinking anything else, no caffeine… You get the picture. (These things can have a dehydrating effect.)
You should add 8 ounces for every caffeinated beverage, sugar-sweetened beverage, and alcoholic beverage. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 3 cups of coffee each day, and enjoy a glass of wine at dinner, you should drink:
150/2 = 75 ounces + 3(8 ounces) + 8 ounces = 107 ounces
Add more if you live in a hot climate and you exercise.
Add 8 ounces of water before, at least 16 ounces during, and 8 ounces after workouts for improved performance and stamina.
Exercise, particularly outdoors in hot climates, can speed dehydration as the work requires water, and dehydration can noticeably impair physical performance. Drink at least 8 ounces before a workout, 16 ounces during, and at least 8 ounces after. In the scenario above, that brings the total to about 140 ounces. Which is equivalent to 17.5 8-ounce glasses, or 1 gallon and some change.
Most of us get that general sense. But many, even those that are diligent about getting enough exercise and eating well, don’t have a strategy to ensure they stay sufficiently hydrated. Which is why I’ve compiled a list of my six favorite hydration strategies.
1. Buy an Insulated cup or water bottle to keep your water cold and nearby.
As Page V. of Simply Heaven Design recently pointed out, “Sometimes it’s not you – it’s the tools you have – that need an upgrade.” When she started using a 32-ounce insulated tumbler, she went from an average of 30 ounces a day to over a gallon without really trying. If you have a cup or bottle you enjoy drinking from that keeps your water at a palatable temperature, you will drink more water. Keep it with you wherever you go. There are many brands with wide-ranging prices. You don’t have to spring for the high-dollar Yeti if you don’t want to; in fact, this review placed the Yeti second in staying power.
2. Flavor your water with various fruits and herbs.
Many find plain water – well, plain. If your palate gets bored with the non-taste of crisp, clear, pure water, try infusing it with fruits, herbs, and spices. Fitness personality Chalene Johnson has a special concoction with lemon, ginger, and cayenne that is pretty tasty. If you are stationary through the day, you can use Johnson’s dead-easy trick to make sure you drink enough. She makes a one-gallon recipe and fills 4 32-oz bottles in the morning that she keeps in fridge. You just make sure you drink them all before bed. (This works with a gallon-sized pitcher too – so long as nobody else helps themselves to it.) That’s all well and good, but how do you remember to drink, and track how much you have drank at the end of the day? The final four are cues to help you remember to refill and keep drinking.
3. Clock method
If you keep a smaller water bottle, say 16 ounces, be sure to drain and refill it every hour throughout the day. That’ll give you over a gallon by the end of your typical work day.
4. Visual method
If your bottle is bigger, it might help to wrap rubber bands around the bottom of the bottle. For a 20-ounce bottle, for example, use six rubber bands (bonus for a rainbow of color!) When you’ve emptied it, shift a rubber band to the top and refill it. When all the rubber bands are at the top, you’ve hydrated with 120 ounces! (More is okay, just so you know.)
5. Movement method
Make sure your bottle is empty every time you get up from your desk to visit the restroom, and refill it on your way back. This one is self-perpetuating; the more you empty it, the more times you’ll visit the restroom, the more you’ll be drinking.
6. Fitness tracker method
If you have a fitness tracker, such as those offered by Bellabeat, you can set it to buzz, which serves as a reminder to get up periodically through your workday to move. You can also use this to cue you to drink water. Best practice to combat inflammation is to walk around every hour on the hour. You can use that for your hydration advantage as well. Set your tracker to cue you to get up every hour, and to drain and refill your water bottle.
Still not convinced? Take the Water Challenge! Drink the Healthy Habits System recommendation for a week, and see if you notice a difference in how you feel! Use the hydration equation above to find out how much water you should be drinking. Then, choose two or three of these strategies to make sure you hit that amount every day for one week. Let us know in the comments if you took the challenge, what you learned, and which strategy worked best for you.