We are busy, health conscious people. I’ll bet that with all your running around (at home or at work) you *sometimes* forget to stay hydrated!
I know I’m guilty of forgetting to bring a water bottle with me some days. I don’t consciously think about staying hydrated as much as I should and I am pretty forgetful on really busy days. I’ve definitely driven off with my water bottle sitting on the top of my car more than once!
Staying hydrated at work is also very important. When I first started working in the OR, I ended up subconsciously limiting my water intake. Going to the restroom wasn’t something I could just do whenever I wanted. (Imagine leaving a patient mid-procedure just to pee!) Odd to think about, but it’s not always an option for me and something my non-hospital friends take for granted.
I was essentially dehydrating myself a little each day, and after a while, I ended up with kidney stones! Not sure if you have ever experienced a kidney stone, but it is NOT fun!
So, after I passed the stones, I decided to do whatever I could to avoid getting a kidney stone again. I started experimenting to find the best way to ensure I stayed hydrated, without having to sprint to the bathroom constantly.
It took some time, and trial and error, but now, I routinely hit my daily water intake goals and my kidneys really appreciate it!
Today I am sharing my tips and hydration routine with you! Hopefully it will make drinking the recommended amount of water a little less challenging and will help you avoid a kidney stone as well! 🙂
First a little background.
Why do we need to drink water?
For centuries, water has been referred to as a ‘life force‘. It is second (only to oxygen) as the most important thing necessary for sustaining human life. Let’s clarify that to mean clean, pure water.
Water makes up about 60% of our body composition. It plays a role in nearly every single function of the body. So, staying hydrated is important.
Benefits of staying hydrated: include better digestion, better absorption of nutrients, and it increases our blood volume to circulate oxygen (and nutrients) throughout the body. Hydration keeps our mucous membranes moist, and plays a role in the creation of sweat, tears, and saliva.
Water helps your body regulate and maintain its temperature through perspiration and respiration. It even helps ‘flush’ toxins from the body. The kidneys do the filtering and the toxins are released from the body as urine.
Without adequate hydration, the machine (aka: your body) just can’t work properly or effectively.
How much water you should be drinking?
A popular method to calculate ideal water intake is to divide your body weight (in pounds) by the number 2. The answer should be your water intake in ounces.
That’s a quick, simple formula that should help you ballpark your water intake fairly accurately. If you are more active, or find yourself sweating and losing moisture, you should further increase your intake to compensate for those losses as well.
Sneaky ways to hit your hydration numbers:
Side note before we get started: Throughout this article, I reference drinking 8 ounces of water at a time. I chose this number because it’s the realistic amount I can drink before I feel full and get that gross ‘sloshing’ feeling in my stomach. You may have a better capacity for water, or maybe you can only drink 6 ounces before you get that same feeling. You know your body best, so experiment and choose an amount that works for you!
Ok, here’s my hydration strategy!
- Start early! Hydration should start as soon as your alarm goes off.
- Start hydrating when you first wake up. I keep a water glass beside the bed, right next to my phone (alarm). I don’t drink water in the middle of the night, but the glass is there as a reminder. When my alarm goes off, I grab it and fill it up. I aim to drink 8 ounces before I take my morning shower.
- Post shower, while you are getting ready is another great time to hydrate! I refill my glass and try to sip another 8 ounces. This means while I am putting on makeup, getting dressed, packing lunches, etc I am sipping away.
- Before you leave the house, grab your water bottle and fill it up! Bring it with you and hydrate on your commute. Whether it’s walking, driving or taking public transportation you can hydrate along the way.
- Half of the week, while I am at the hospital, my work is a little less conventional. There are no food or drinks allowed in the OR, so I can’t exactly carry a water bottle around with me. But, I do use every possible opportunity to drink water. Between cases, when the room turnover is slow, or when I have a few minutes between patients are the times I try to hydrate.
- The remainder of the week, I am at an office job. These days, toting around my water bottle and tracking my intake is much easier. It’s nice to leave my water on my desk as a visual reminder of how much I have hydrated so far.
I really like to use a ‘smart’ water bottle. My Hidrate Spark bottle alerts me when I fall behind on my intake for the day. I also have one that just has the lines printed on the bottle and that works just as well to help me keep on track with my water intake. Here are the ones I use and alternate between:
Budget friendly option: You can also take any water bottle you already have and make your own marks on it (either make the time marks on a piece of tape, and tape it to the bottle, or just write the lines directly on the bottle). This is another visual cue to keep your hydration on track throughout the day.
- Meals are another great time to hydrate. Wether I am eating out or having lunch at the office, I try to drink another 8 ounces of water before the food arrives (or before the microwave finishes). I like to think of it as a little race against the clock. I like to see if I can finish my water before the microwave dings or before the food comes to the table. Silly, but it works!
- Speaking of meals, you should consider choosing high water-content foods as part of your lunch or snack options to help passively increase your water intake. I’ll go into high water content foods in just a moment.
- At the end of the day, I fill my water bottle on the way out the door. Just like the morning, I try to drink as much as I can during my commute home. Some days when the traffic is extra bad, I can get through almost all of it. Small wins!
- When I get home, I usually have some time to workout, so I make sure to have another glass of water, (sometimes with BCAA’s mixed in) ready to sip throughout my workout.
- Post workout, if I am making a smoothie, I’ll opt for foods that are high in water content as mix-ins.
- I continue sipping water while I am making dinner (usually a sparkling water). Then if I am reading or watching TV in the evening, I like to make herbal tea.
Ok, so hopefully you’ve been keeping track of all that hydration.
Count how many times you refilled your water bottle, or what other beverages you had, and add it all up to see how you did. This guide is just an outline and sometimes, even with the best of intentions, I still don’t drink enough water for the day. It happens! Try some of the tips below to nudge you closer to your goals.
Does it have to be plain water?
No! You can mix it up and drink regular water, sparkling water, tea, or even coconut water.
Spa water is another great way to make plain water more interesting. Just add a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (such as lemon slices/mint leaves/strawberries or even cucumber slices) to your water bottle in the morning and it will infuse flavor all day, even when you refill it!
Try to avoid using any sugary mix-ins such as powdered mixes or concentrated fruit drops to flavor your water. They are often full of sugar or colored dyes and don’t offer much nutritional benefit.
Start with a plan, a dedicated water bottle (or two), and make it a habit. Monitor your progress and see what’s working well for you. Maybe you need to switch things up or go for tea or sparkling water in the afternoon instead of plain water. Try a few different things and see what works best. Also take note of how you feel. I often feel better when I am properly hydrated.
Meal choices: If after some adjustments you are still having trouble getting your required water intake, consider making small changes with your meal choices in addition to your drinks.
Many of the foods that are part of a healthy diet are also high in water content. So don’t forget about the passive hydration you get from dietary choices. Those count toward your hydration goals too.
I try to pick foods seasonally appropriate foods that are fairly high in water content when I am grocery shopping and planning my meals for the week.
For example, a typical day of meals while I am at work (focusing on eating high water content foods) might look like:
- Breakfast is a yogurt and a piece of fruit
- Lunch is a mixed greens salad, with other high water content foods (such as mandarin segments, cherry tomatoes, zucchini slices etc.) added in as salad toppings.
- Afternoon snack would be an apple with some type of nut butter.
Don’t rely on high water content foods as the only way to hit your nutrition and hydration goals, but adding these foods into your diet can make a difference to your overall hydration level.
Here are some popular high water content foods (based on information found at nutritiondata.com) to consider when you are meal planning. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you some great ideas and a place to start.
Water content is based on approximately 1 cup of each item. Those items without a percentage either had widely varying percentages (depending on where the data came from) or a vague “greater than 80% water content” classification. Regardless, they are all considered high water content foods that we should be adding to our meals.
- Grapefruit 88%
- Oranges 88%
- Peaches 89%
- Strawberries: 91 %
- Watermelon: 92 %
- Bell Peppers 92 %
- Broccoli: 91%
- Cabbage 92%
- Carrots 87%
- Cauliflower 92 %
- Celery 95 %
- Cucumbers 95%
- Lettuce 96%
- Tomatoes 94%
- Zucchini 94%
- Broth and Soup 92% (look for low-sodium choices)
- Tomato based sauces/soups 90%
- Chicken noodle soup
- Coconut Water 95 %
- Skim Milk 91 %
Misc Food Items:
- Cottage Cheese 80%
- Fruit popsicles (just avoid ones with added sugar)
- Yogurt 88%
Hopefully this article (and list) will be helpful on your quest to stay hydrated each day!
Let me know if I’ve missed any of your favorite water-dense foods or if you have a tip for sneaking in extra water throughout the day!