Though we all know our bodies need water to survive, it’s easy to forget just HOW important it is to our health to be well hydrated.
Did you know that water makes up more than half of our body weight? Every cell, tissue, and organ needs water to function properly. Water is critical for maintaining the right body temperature, removing waste, lubricating joints, carrying nutrients and oxygen to the cells, moistening our tissues, and so much more. If any of those functions are lacking, your energy will tank and you will not be operating at full steam.
But how much should we be drinking?
Many health professionals recommend “8 glasses a day,” or half your body weight in water. However there is really no solid research backing up any of these theories. The best way to gauge if you are on the right track is to check your urine. If it’s clear, pale or straw-colored, you are doing a great job. If it’s darker than that, keep drinking!
Though we’ve run across some serious hydration geeks, truth be told most of our clients do not drink enough fluids for one of two reasons. Either they forget to drink, or they get bored with water and have no incentive to drink it (unless plagued by thirst). In the latter case, those who find water just plain boring often turn to flavored drinks which are often laden with sugar, sugar substitutes, artificial colors or flavors, and/or food dyes. Bah humbug!
If you are exercising intensely, it’s absolutely critical to be well hydrated. Though sports drinks are all the rage, water is all you need UNLESS you will be participating in an intense cardio activity that is longer than 90 minutes. Then it would be a good idea to hydrate with an electrolyte drink that will replace not only fluids, but also natural chemicals like sodium and potassium, which are lost through perspiration.
With that in mind, we compiled a list of 7 delicious options to keep water boredom at bay. Whether you are looking for a refreshing change from plain water to keep your basic hydration needs met, or are interested in a healthier alternative to commercial sports and energy drinks, there is something for everyone here. Those with an (E) next to them indicate they have some electrolytes and a small amount of natural sugar, and may be used as a gatorade-type replacement.
HOMEMADE GATORADE (E)
Ditch the sugar and artificial sweeteners and colors found in Gatorade and try this instead:
- 20 ounces of water
- 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
- Juice from one large lemon
- 1-2 teaspoons of honey (to taste)
Mix well and store in the fridge. Double or triple the recipe so you have on hand post exercise.
COCONUT WATER (E)
Coconut water contains vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that perfectly replenish the body after long workout. They are also great as part of a smoothie base, along with water. But buyer beware – coconut water does have about 8 grams of sugar per cup (albeit natural but still contributes to your overall sugar intake). So drink it wisely and don’t overdo. Also, avoid brands made from concentrates or with added flavors and sugars, or ones that use high heat pasteurization. Instead, opt for unpasteurized raw coconut water OR brands that use the HPP method (high pressure processing). Some good choices include: Harmless Harvest, Juice Press, Exotic Superfoods, Unoco (wild coconut), or Suja.
This probiotic, fizzy powerhouse can help replenish fluids and build up your beneficial gut flora at the same time. Most brands are sweetened naturally with a little stevia (some have a small amount of cane sugar). Read all about Kevita here.
GREEN SMOOTHIES (E)
When looking for a replenishment drink, green smoothies are a great go-to. Many fruits and veggies are packed with potassium and even small amounts of natural sodium, along with some carbs to keep your blood sugar up. When looking to smoothies as a fluid replacement and refresher drink, you can forgo the protein and healthy fats and focus on just the veggies and fruit, as in the example below.
Ginger Greens Smoothie
1 cup water (or 1/2 cup water plus 1/2 cup coconut water)
1 cup greens (Romaine, spinach)
1 green apple
¼ cup parsley
2 stalk celery
Juice from one lemon
1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender for at least 30 -45 seconds.
Most commercial ice teas are packed with sugars, or artificial sweeteners – blech. It’s super easy to make your own, and much less expensive. If you use tea bags, look for larger ones shaped like pyramids, which give the leaves more room to bloom. Loose teas are also fabulous when making homemade ice tea.
To make the perfect ice tea:
Start with 4 tea bags of your choice (combos are great, such as rooibos, ginger, green mint, or fruit infused like peach or berry). Fill a two-quart heavy glass pitcher or teapot to about a third with boiling water to make a strong infusion. After steeping for about 20 minutes, fill up the jug with cold water and stir. Add some citrus slices – like lemons or limes. If you are craving some natural sweetness, sliced oranges or clementines make a good addition. Fresh mint is also wonderful.
You can also brew your tea in a glass jar outside in the heat, otherwise known as “Sun Tea.” About 3 hours in the hot sun will produce good results. Then add in your goodies (fresh lemon juice, mint, orange slices, or even up to a tablespoon of honey for a pinch of sweetness).
WATER WITH INFUSED VEGGIES OR FRUIT
To upgrade the flavor factor in plain water, simply add a variety of fruits and/or veggies such as lemons, limes, cucumber, mint, berries, etc. Pitchers with built in infusers, like this one, are inexpensive and easy to use, and keep the add-ins separate from the drinking water.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that food itself can fill a hydration need. Some of the most “water-logged” fruits and veggies include watermelon, berries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, tomato, lettuce and cabbage. Here’s a fun summer salad with a high water content.
Cucumber Citrus Salad
- 1 cup cucumber, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup orange sections
- 1/4 cup red onion
- 2 tablespoons jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 ½ tablespoons white or rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; stir well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Let us know: do you stay well hydrated? What are your favorite ways to stay hydrated and why?