Habits of Highly Hydrated People
“Water is the driving force in nature,” wrote Leonardo da Vinci. Make this your motto this summer as your body deals with the scorching heat, humidity, and dehydration. Hot temperatures can leave you feeling fatigued and tired with your heart struggling and your skin suffering. Thankfully, there are many ways to stay hydrated, healthy, and beautiful during summer.
Though simple to do, staying properly hydrated is one of the most effective measures you can take to protect your looks and, ultimately, your health.
Elements of hydration
Your body depends on water to survive. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated and has lost a significant amount of vital fluids. So don’t wait to get thirsty! Being thirsty is a lot worse for your health than being sleepy or hungry.
Many people think that simply loading up on water, gulping it glass by glass every hour, will cover all their hydration needs. But drinking too much water has numerous downsides, from stressing your kidneys to depleting your body’s stores of water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Even if you switch to some rare mineral water delivered from far, far away, there’s no way around it: water cannot be your sole source of hydration (but more on that later).
In terms of purity or mineral content, many bottled waters are little different than tap water. To begin with, let’s talk mineral water. First, they’re not all created equal—while an overpriced mineral water from a distant alpine spring may seem like a perfect source of minerals, you have to take a look at the ingredients list. In this case, that will be a label specifying which mineral is most abundant in the particular water. Ideally, your mineral water should contain ample potassium, magnesium, silica, or calcium. If so, it will help you hydrate.
Most mineral waters from reputable sources can be used to hydrate your skin from outside, too. Simply pour your water into a glass container with a spray top and mist your face throughout the day.
How often to drink your water is a matter of preference. The “eight glasses a day” rule has never been supported by science—it just sounds good. Your own water needs on any given day will be determined by a variety of factors, from your activity level to how much time you’re spending outside in the heat to how prone you are to eye bags or swollen ankles. Eight glasses of water consumed by an office dweller would overload her kidneys, while those same eight glasses would hardly be enough for a jogger or a tennis player.
Before you get thirsty again, do a bathroom test: the darker your urine is, the more water you need to consume during the day. Darker urine means that not enough water passes through your kidneys to wash off all the waste. Still, keep in mind that multivitamins and certain medications can cause your urine to appear dark. Experiment with adding more water to your daily ratio and note any difference.
The American Heart Association offers another test to see if you are thoroughly hydrated. Weigh yourself after using the bathroom in the morning. If you are two pounds less than normal, you are likely dehydrated. (Note that this method may not work if you are on a cleansing detox spree or are fasting as you may be having heavier stools and thus appearing to lose weight during those days.)
Avoid these hydration busters!
Before we explore delicious and healthy ways to hydrate your body, let’s chat a little about the bad guys. Caffeine- and sugar-laden energy drinks are the number-one dehydrator (though alcohol’s not doing you any favors either). Caffeine and alcohol are proven diuretics, causing you to lose precious water at higher speed.
Sugar in soda and energy drinks skyrockets your blood sugar levels. As a result, your blood becomes more able to dissolve any substances in it. The more substances the blood absorbs—good or bad, it doesn’t matter—the more water it needs to keep it flowing. So we reach for another glass or bottle of water to dilute the extra sugar and return the concentration to normal so our blood will stop quenching good substances and spreading toxic ones. Drinking soda and energy drinks will make you thirstier, and thirst is a clear sign that your body is dehydrated.
The merits of H2O
Remember what I said earlier, that plain water can’t be your only source of hydration? While that’s true, you still need water! But plain water is so boring, you may say. Granted, until you make drinking water a mindless habit, water may sound bland or uninspiring. Ideally, you should think of water the way you think of air. No one complains that fresh air is bland—you just breathe and keep going. If we had to breathe air full of toxic fumes, we would complain. Fresh air is a luxury and a gift of healthier life, not a bland and boring substance! Try to think of water in the same way and refuse to drink water that smells of chemicals.
The first way to get the best water to hydrate your body is to choose the right water container. When on the move, use a water bottle with a BPA-free lining—this means that the epoxy resin that releases phthalates into your water was substituted for a more sturdy plastic. (If you’re not sure, check the recycling number on the bottom: any number besides a 7, and you’re in the clear. Bottles with a 7 may also be BPA-free if they say so specifically.)
Do not rely on regular water bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET, recycling number 1). They release gender-bending phthalates if the bottle gets too cold, too warm, too bent, or too squashed—that’s too fragile and too toxic for me. If you have space in your purse or your backpack, carry your water in the smaller glass bottles the more expensive mineral waters come in. Filter your water in a jug and decant in glass bottles. Yes, they are heavier, but you get your exercise and your cleaner water at the same time!
At home, a glass jug is your best reminder to drink water. Buy a large two-liter jug and make sure to fill it with filtered water every day. If you work from home, keep it at your desk (just keep Post-it notes away from it!). Keep your jug where it will be seen often. You can also set a reminder on your smartphone or computer to drink water more often.
Lemon water or diluted green tea are also excellent hydrators: after a little while, sipping on these beverages will become a habit. Why diluted green tea? Green tea brewed strong can dehydrate you, while diluted green tea (approximately one cup per liter of filtered water) can help hydrate while delivering the same antioxidant benefits as pure green tea. Experiment with various types of green tea like jasmine, matcha powder, or sencha, a green tea made with puffed rice that imparts delicious flavor.
Edible water: yum!
Another way to boost your hydration levels is to eat your water. Water from fruits and fresh vegetables is more readily absorbed by the body than water from the glass because “edible” water travels through your intestines more slowly and becomes more fully available while “liquid” water rushes through your tummy, straight to the kidneys, and out of the body.
Smoothies, yogurt, chicken soup, tomato sauce, applesauce, and fruit juices are excellent sources of hydration. Fruits like orange, mango, pineapple, apple, kiwi, pears, cantaloupe, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries—as well as vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and broccoli—deliver essential electrolytes that the body needs for nerve and brain function.
These foods have up to 90 percent of their weight in water content. Coconut water is another good example of highly hydrating water that does not come from a tap or an underground source.
My favorite source of summer hydration is cucumber. Not only does it contain heart-friendly potassium, cucumber is also rich in vitamin C and caffeic acids: both of these natural compounds help us stay hydrated as they help the body retain moisture. As a fiber-rich food, cucumber requires more calories to get through the body than it actually contains, so it makes perfect sense to eat this “negative calorie” food with every meal for satiety and boosted hydration. Celery is another champion of water content: every stalk is more than 96 percent water! And each droplet of this precious water is enriched with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and even aphrodisiacs.
Spice up your water
In England I learned that “squash” is not a juice made from freshly squeezed or “squashed” fruit, but fruit juice diluted in half with water. This is the kind of juice given to children in nurseries and schools to diminish the calorie count and to make the drink less tooth-decaying. In Switzerland, kids drink “sirop” which is basically a “squash” made from concentrated juice of elderflowers, berries, or exotic fruit. You can prepare your own squashes and sirops by adding ginger, lemon, cucumber, berries, or any other fruit with interesting taste to your water. Start your morning with water spruced with a dash of lemon juice and a splash of honey to supply liquids and minerals lost during the night.
Popsicles are a perfect example of how to make your water delicious. And they can contain any vitamins, minerals, or electrolytes you choose to add to them.
Instead of store-bought sugary popsicles, buy a mold and make your own popsicles from natural, unsweetened juices, finely cubed or puréed fruits and berries, a little added sea salt for electrolytes, and fragrant herbs for antioxidants (think peppermint, lemon balm, or parsley). If you or your child are on the sporty side, popsicles are a much better source of water and electrolytes than commercially available sports drinks. You can also make fruit or berry jellies with pectin or another vegetable shortening. Jellies are low in calories, high in water, and refreshing.
Habits: the key to a hydrated life
The best way to stay hydrated is to make drinking water into a mindless habit, much like breathing. Let water with lemon be part of your early morning routine. Keep a bottle with filtered tap or mineral water within easy reach, no matter what you are doing. Keep a face mister with mineral water handy and spray your face: contrary to the popular myth, your skin will not become drier, and any tightness is only due to the minerals in water accumulated on top of your skin. Most important, take regular gulps of water even if you are not feeling thirsty. Drink a glass of water before every meal, at bedtime, and upon waking up, and you will soon be rewarded by glowing skin, brighter eyes, and trimmer waist.
Julie Gabriel is a holistic nutritionist, the founder of Petite Marie Organics, and an advocate of natural living, organic beauty, and holistic nutrition. Her new book Holistic Beauty from the Inside Out: Your Complete Guide to Natural Health, Nutrition, and Skincare is available now from Seven Stories Press.