By Morgan Skatz RD, LDN
The lay press estimates that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Now that cold weather has officially arrived, in the northeast, for winter it can become even harder for people to meet their fluid needs. Dehydration is a common cause for hospitalizations, as it is essential for many body functions including: maintaining temperature, joint lubrication, delivering nutrients to cells, organ function, and preventing infections.
How do you know if you are dehydrated? The best way to assess hydration is by observing the color of your urine. Ideally, it will be a very light yellow, this indicates optimal hydration. Dark yellow urine means you are dehydrated, and clear urine means you may be depleted of electrolytes.
Here are 4 tips to stay hydrated throughout these cold winter months:
Drink when you are thirsty! Thirst is a signal from your body that is needs fluid. Keep fluids with you whenever possible so you can always satisfy this sensation. Which leads to tip number two…
Utilize reusable water bottles. It is not uncommon to see someone carrying a reusable water bottle wherever you go these days – work, church, the mall, the movies, etc... If you have not already jumped on this train now is the time! Keeping one with you makes it easy to continuously sip throughout the day. (Bonus tip! Many people find they drink more when their water bottle has a straw.)
Set fluid goals for yourself to reach throughout the day. “I am going to drink this much by noon and then this much more by 3pm…” or “I am going to finish one whole water bottle before lunch and another before dinner.” This will help keep you on track and spread out your intake.
If you have made it this far and are worried because you do not like water that is OK! Water is not the only hydrating fluid. You can also reach fluid goals by consuming milk, juice, tea, flavored water, even broths (like soup) or eat fruit (like watermelon.)
Guidance on how much fluid to consume per day is mixed since it is a very individualized need. In general, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is: About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. Again, it is very individualized so if you are new to staying hydrated you could use these numbers as a starting point, while observing your urine, to help you find what your body needs. Personally, I need more than this to feel my best but I have been an avid water drinker for many years. Also note that your fluid needs will change based on physical activity levels, going up the more you are doing.
If you have further questions on how to stay hydrated or if you are hydrated, I recommend meeting with your personal care physician or scheduling an appointment with a registered dietitian who can provide personal advice to you.
Written by Morgan Skatz RD, LDN