What are you drinking?

Yesterday I mentioned that improper hydration may have been one of the things that kept me from having an amazing long run.  So today, I thought I’d write a little bit about proper hydration.  I see a dietitian on a regular basis, and one of the things we always talk about is getting enough water.  When I was struggling just to eat, I often neglected my thirst level, and it’s only recently that I’ve gotten a point where I’m drinking enough water in a day.  There’s something about the full feeling that I get from drinking water that has been a bit of a deterrent to me.  But as I get more and more used to feeling hydrated, I realize how much better I feel when I’ve had enough to drink.  Being thirsty makes me cranky and tired, gives me a terrible headache, and makes it hard to run well or think clearly.

Out of curiosity, I took this little quiz to see how much water I needed on an average day.  The general recommendation is 8 glasses (a glass usually equating to 8 oz.) of water a day, although some say it’s fine to go as low as 6, or as high as 10.  I try to aim for 8, and make an effort to get more on days when it’s extra hot, or I’ll be doing an intense workout.  The quiz I took said I should be getting 2.3 liters, or roughly 78 ounces of water, per day–that’s close to 10 glasses and, given the fact that I tend to sweat like a man (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and that I am pretty active, seems about right.

The hardest part, I think, is managing to get all that water in over the course of one day.  It may seem insignificant, but 8-10 glasses of water is nothing to scoff at.  Plus, drinking all that water means you will have to pee.  A lot.  Especially when you’re first getting used to upping your water intake, if you’ve been insufficiently hydrated.  It’s not an easy task to commit to staying on the right side of the hydration tracks.  So I thought I’d offer some tips that might help you meet your hydration goals.

  • Buy a reusable bottle that you can carry with you.  I actually have two.  I keep one at work and one at home.  I know the capacity of each of them, so I know how many full bottles I need to drink in order to get the number of ounces I need.  Having a reusable bottle is great for the environment, and it also means you never have to be without water–you’ll always have your bottle with you, so you can easily get a refill from a tap or a water fountain.
  • Try a drinking game.  And no, I’m not talking about Beirut, or taking a shot every time someone speaks some word or phrase.  I mean something more along the lines of challenging yourself to drink 8 oz. of water every hour.  That way, you have a concrete goal, and you also know that once you’ve made it through your work day (for example), you’ve had the 8 glasses you need.  You can even set a timer to go off every hour if you’re the forgetful type (which I tend to be, especially when I get wrapped up in something).
  • Make having a single glass part of a routine you’ve already established.  For example, when you brush your teeth in the morning, drink a glass of water as well.  Soon, having that glass of water will become a normal part of your day, and you’ll have one less to drink later.
  • Mix it up.  It can be easy to get tired of water, so find ways to make it more interesting or palatable.  You can add lemon or mint for a bit of flavor.  If you like tea, keep some of your favorite kind on hand so that you’ll always have it available.  Sodas and juices also count toward your water quota, but it’s best to be careful about how much extra sugar you’re ingesting–you want to make sure you don’t get too dependent on sugary drinks when you want to quench your thirst.  Besides, in my opinion, if you’re going to have a sweet, it’s better to eat a cookie or a piece of cake.  They’re just more satisfying than a can of Coke.
  • Ask for water at restaurants.  When I go out to eat, I tend to stick with water instead of wine, beer, or a soda.  For one thing, water is free.  For another, being out is a simple way to get in a lot of water–it’s being refilled for you, so you don’t really have to put in any effort!  You can also get tap water pretty easily at places like Starbucks and sandwich shops.  When you go out to get coffee, grab some water as well.

The most important thing with hydration is finding what works for you and sticking with it.  It’s one of those things that is deceptively simple, and for which there’s no magic formula.

I’m curious to hear what other people have to say about hydration.  Is it something you think about?  Are you good at staying hydrated?  Bad at it?  Do you have any tips to share?

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