It doesn't take much water loss before your body begins to suffer. In fact, you only need to lose 2 to 4 percent of your body's water before your muscles begin to lose strength, according to Iowa State University. Beyond your muscles, hydration affects virtually your entire body, because every cell and organ needs water to function properly. Drinking water works well for staying hydrated, but you can also choose from a variety of beverages. The important thing is to consume a sufficient amount of fluids.
The Amount You Need
The only way to consume the amount of fluid you need is to drink at regular intervals throughout the day, such as when you wake, at each meal and between meals. The recommended adequate intake for water is 9 cups daily for women and 12 cups for men. About 20 percent of your daily water comes through foods, such as fruits and vegetables, so a balanced diet is an important part of staying hydrated. The adequate intake, however, is the amount you should drink in addition to water from your diet. The recommended intake is a general guideline, because individual needs vary depending on age, health, activity level and loss of fluids from sweating, diarrhea and vomiting.
The Best Beverages to Drink
Water is the best choice for quenching thirst and rehydrating because it’s exactly what your body needs and it has no calories. For other beverages, you’ll have to consider the number of calories they contribute. Low-sodium vegetable juice, fat-free milk and 100-percent fruit juice all deliver fluids with nutrients and only have 53, 83 and 112 calories per cup, respectively. As long as you don’t add cream or sweeteners, coffee and tea contain virtually no calories, and they provide antioxidants. Beware of beverages with added sugar. They're high in calories, which may cause weight gain.
Hydrate for Optimal Performance
You need extra water when you're active because muscles generate heat and the body perspires to stay cool. Water also transports energy-providing glucose to muscles and carries wastes away from them, which helps prevent muscle fatigue. After an hour of exercise, you can lose over 1 quart of water, according to the American Council on Exercise. To maintain endurance, you should drink before, during and after your workout. Water is your best choice for hydrating during exercise, but you may need a sports drink to replace electrolytes along with fluids after 45 to 60 minutes of high-intensity exercise.
Tips to Stay Hydrated
By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already low on water, so keeping a bottle of water handy serves as a reminder to drink fluids often and avoid thirst. Carry a reusable bottle of water with you and store bottles of water in your desk at work. Put an extra bottle of water in your car, but be sure to use a glass bottle. When your car is in the sun, the heat may cause chemicals to leach out of the plastic and into the beverage. Keep a pitcher of water or iced tea in your refrigerator for a handy alternative at home.
- Iowa State University: Fluids
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Thirst and Dehydration
- American Council on Exercise: Fit Facts: Healthy Hydration
- University of Michigan: Healing Foods Pyramid: Water
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Tomato and Vegetable Juice, Low Sodium
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Milk, Nonfat, Fluid, With Added Vitamin A and Vitamin D (Fat Free or Skim)
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Orange Juice, Raw