You probably know that water is essential for human survival. Maybe you’re even aware that optimal hydration is important for the health of all the systems in your body. Even small hydration deficits, where you may not even be aware you're dehydrated, can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental performance [Find out more in “7 dangers of on-the-job dehydration that all employers should know”].
The great news is that you can apply plenty of practical tips to prevent dehydration and to ensure you're giving your body all the water it needs.
How do I know if I’m drinking enough water?
Various calculations can be made to ensure you’re getting enough water. Your water requirements will vary depending on several factors such as your body size, physical activity levels, and environment. One easy way to determine whether you’re drinking enough water is to look at the color of your urine. If you are well hydrated, it should be almost clear. Dark yellow or brown urine can be an indication that you are quite dehydrated.
However, note that some foods and vitamins can change the color of your urine, so you may not be dehydrated if you have consumed these foods and then you observe a color change in your urine. For example, high levels of B vitamins can turn your urine bright yellow, and beets can turn it a reddish or brown color.
Practical tips to help you drink more water
Understanding that hydration is crucial for your health is one thing. Taking action to make sure you are drinking enough water is the other piece of the puzzle. Drinking water is a simple concept. However, you may find that you simply forget to do it throughout the day, or that it feels like a bit of a chore. Or, perhaps you prefer the taste and flavor of other fluids, and find water a bit boring.
When you repeat actions consistently they become behaviors and then turn into habits over time. Once you’ve established a habit you’ll find it much easier to drink water regularly, without putting in a lot of effort. The following tips can help you to form better water drinking habits that will keep dehydration at bay.
1. Try infused water or herbal teas
If a lack of flavor is preventing you from increasing your water intake, try adding some to your water. Although many different drinks can increase your hydration levels, plenty of them are high in sugar. To increase your fluids without also increasing your sugar intake, try making infused water. This could be as simple as adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to your water. Other ideas include cucumbers, mint or other fresh herbs, and fresh berries. You may find the added flavor makes it much easier to drink sufficient water. You could either prepare a few water bottles with different flavors to sip throughout the day, or always have a pitcher of infused water in your fridge, switching up the flavors as you wish.
Herbal teas that are naturally free from caffeine are another great option for increasing your hydration. Be careful of caffeine-containing beverages, which may have a diuretic effect and could therefore contribute towards dehydration, even if they appear to be introducing more liquids into your daily intake.
2. Increase your intake of foods that have a high water content
Water is an essential macronutrient for the body and brain. Most foods contain some water, and some foods contain much higher levels than others. An easy way to increase your water intake is by ensuring your diet contains plenty of foods that have naturally high water content. The great news is that many of these high water content foods are beneficial for several other areas of your health.
Most fruits and vegetables have high water content. Some of them may be up to 99% water! For example, apples, grapes, oranges, carrots, pears, pineapple, and cooked broccoli contain somewhere between 80% and 89% water. Melons, strawberries, lettuce, celery, cabbage, and spinach contain the highest levels (90% or more) of water.[Find out more about the importance of proper nutrition in “You are what you eat: The impact nutrition plays on mental health”].
3. Start your morning with a glass or two of water
It’s quite common to wake up in a dehydrated state after consuming little or no water overnight. Therefore, drinking a glass or two of water when you first wake up can get your hydration levels off to a great start for the day, and can even help energize you for the day ahead.
To help create a habit, pour yourself a glass of water straight after another action you take consistently each morning. For example, pour yourself a glass of water to drink after you’ve been to the bathroom, or before you’ve brushed your teeth. This will help you remember this new habit as you're trying to form it.[Find out more in “8 habits to add to your morning routine”].
4. Invest in a reusable bottle
There are many great reasons to invest in a reusable water bottle. You may even want to purchase more than one so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting your bottle, or so that you're never without one. Perhaps you’ll have one water bottle to use at work and one at home, and maybe even one in your car. With your water bottle by your side at all times, it’s a simple reminder to keep yourself hydrated, and you may find yourself reaching for it more and more just because it's convenient and accessible. Sipping some water to hydrate yourself is also a great habit to build into microbreaks throughout the day.
While you can select whichever type of reusable bottle appeals to you, some reusable bottles have been designed with specific features to help you drink more water. Some contain markers on the bottle to show you exactly how much you're drinking, and may even have time stamps to encourage you to drink water consistently throughout the day. Whatever your preference, a reusable bottle can be crucial in your quest for proper hydration.
5. Set yourself a reminder or use an app that records water intake
Technology can be useful for helping you to increase your water intake. A simple alarm could be set at regular intervals on your phone to remind you to drink more water. There are also apps available for you to set a daily goal and record your water intake.
Some very high-tech reusable bottles can even connect to your smartphone via a specific app. They’re an all-in-one solution if you need an extra nudge to increase your water intake. Customized water intake, built-in reminders, and automatic logging of your water intake are key features of this technology.[Find out more about apps and other technology that may be a useful addition to your wellness plan in “Technology and mental health: Apps and tools that could benefit your employees” and “8 workplace wellness apps to boost your wellness program”].
Optimal hydration is crucial for physical and mental performance both in and out of the workplace. Choose one or more of the tips above to start taking action. You can begin increasing your water intake today and build better habits over time.
Employers can play a role in helping employees to stay hydrated as well. One way is by providing a water filter or water cooler so everyone has easy access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times.