As the summer begins to wind down and we start to get back into our normal routines, one important thing to remember during this transition is to stay hydrated. During the warm months of summer, when we tend to be more active, consuming enough water is a bit easier. But as the temperature cools and we trade shorts for sweaters, it’s imperative to pay attention to this essential component of health: staying well hydrated.

With our bodies being over 70% water, being well hydrated is a crucial necessity that is oftentimes overlooked. But without water, our systems can’t function properly. Drinking a sufficient amount of filtered water daily ensures our blood pressure and body temperature are regulated, our joints are lubricated and our digestion runs smooth. Optimal hydration can also relieve constipation, help prevent kidney stones all while aiding weight loss.

But if you are dehydrated, there are several negative side effects that not only hinder daily performance but also on short and long term health. For example, dehydration can decrease endurance and increase fatigue while altering the body’s thermoregulatory capability. Inadequate hydration can also reduce motivation, which makes exercise harder than it has to be! If that wasn’t enough, mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning affecting concentration, alertness, and short-term memory. You may also experience leg cramps, headaches, loss of appetite, dry mouth, mild constipation, and temporary lightheadedness, all which could be remedied by sufficient intake of water.

So how do you know if you are getting enough? A good rule of thumb is to consume at least half your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, drinking a minimum of 75 ounces would be ideal. Another great indication of hydration is the color of your urine. Light yellow or a straw-like color indicates your water intake is adequate. Anything darker and it’s time to drink up!
With all the benefits as well as the possible (and preventable) side effects, make sure to drink enough water daily to better your health and well-being. Sometimes it can be challenging to drink enough especially if it’s not yet a well-established habit.

So here are 5 simple tips to ensure you are meeting your hydration needs:

  1. Get yourself a reusable water bottle. If you carry water around with you, you are more likely to sip throughout the day. Here’s the thing though - disposable, plastic water bottles not only have harmful chemicals that leech into the water but they end up in our landfills and oceans polluting our earth. Having your own reusable, BPA-free, bottle will not only help you track how much you are drinking but it will also increase the likelihood you will drink more frequently.
  2. If you feel hungry, drink! Thirst is often disguised as hunger. So when you start to feel the afternoon slump and want to reach for snacks and other sugary treats, try drinking some water instead! It may be all you need to satiate the hunger pangs.
  3. Eat hydrating foods. Aside from drinking water, hydration can also be found in foods. All fruits and vegetables have some amount of water, but the ones that have the most include watermelon, celery, tomatoes, grapefruit, oranges, cucumbers, spinach, strawberries, and radishes. Chia seeds, because of their ability to absorb large quantities of water, are a nutritious and hydrating snack. Coconut water from the inside of young, green coconuts is also a phenomenal form of hydration packed with potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium and has the ability to restore the body’s electrolyte balance.
  4. Start your morning with lemon. As soon as you wake up, make it a point to drink 10-12 ounces of water with the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon even before having coffee or eating breakfast. Drinking water with lemon, especially in the morning, helps flush the liver, aids digestion, gives the immune system a boost and creates healthier skin. There are even some studies that show lemon juice can help stimulate proper stomach acid production and bile production. You can also try squeezing limes, oranges, berries or cucumbers for a refreshing and satisfying twist.
  5. Take your probiotics. Having a balanced gut with beneficial bacteria helps the body absorb nutrients and electrolytes from food while also keeping dangerous microbes out. Harmful microbes can cause intestinal issues like diarrhea that ultimately lead to dehydration. Therefore, taking probiotics helps establish and sustain a well-functioning gut. Probiotics also hydrate your skin, increasing elasticity while decreasing wrinkles (8) so not only do they help you feel better but they also help you look better too!

Water is by far the most important nutrient in our diets. As we approach the changing temperature and the back to school season, remember to enjoy plenty of water while consuming a diet rich in hydrating whole foods. Your body, belly, and brain will thank you!