How to Drink More Water

As summer heats up, hydration is key to wellness

Minoka Gunesekera of the Duke Divinity School shows off her water bottle. Photo by Stephen Schramm.
Minoka Gunesekera of the Duke Divinity School shows off her water bottle. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

Minoka Gunesekera, an admissions recruiter for the Duke Divinity School, knew that good things would come from drinking plenty of water.

After making a conscious effort to drink more water following a hydration-focused session of LIVE FOR LIFE’s “Your Weigh … Together” nutrition program, Gunesekera experienced more benefits than expected.

The easiest way to get yourself to drink more water is to simply have a water bottle or cup nearby.In addition to helping her maintain a healthy weight, healthier skin and better performance during regular trips to the gym, Gunesekera’s been able to stay sharper during the workday.

“The biggest difference for me has been my ability to stay focused through the whole day,” Gunesekera said. “I’ve found that in the afternoon, you get this sort of grayness in your brain. But I feel it lot less when I’m drinking water. I just have more energy and feel an overall level of freshness when I’m able to drink more water.”

Drinking water is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health but taking in enough of it is a daily challenge. Our bodies are 60 percent water. Water is an essential part of fluids that aid in digestion, circulation and the delivery of nutrients. Drinking more water is also a key step in ensuring our muscles, skin and kidneys function properly.

Courtney Brooks, a dietitian with LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke’s employee wellness program, said that a good intake goal for most people is 64 ounces, or eight cups, of water per day.

“Now that the weather is heating up outside, for the most part, people are under-hydrating,” she said. “We lose water through evaporation through our skin or as we digest our food. We constantly lose water throughout the day, so we need to find ways to replace it.”

With summer weather is upon us, here are some tips to help you drink more water.

Make it easy

Perhaps the simplest thing you can do to drink more water is to make sure there’s water nearby. Brooks suggests having a water bottle – whatever size or design you prefer – or cup of water within arm’s reach whenever possible.

“The best way to hydrate is to have access to water 24 hours a day,” she said. “Get a designated water bottle or cup near you so you can take small sips throughout the day. It’s probably the easiest way to hydrate because it becomes sort of mindless.”

App logos for water drinking.Set goals

A study by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 78 percent of adults reported that their daily water intake fell short of the eight-cup goal. Forty-three percent of respondents said they drank three or fewer cups of water per day.

Gunesekera found that, when she was trying to drink more water, it helped if she set benchmarks throughout the day. She shows up to work with a 25 ounce water bottle filled up and tries to empty it by lunch. After lunch, she fills the bottle up and aims to finish that by the time she’s ready to head home for the day.

“I found that I needed to set these goals because just trying to drink a glass of water with my meals was nowhere near sufficient,” Gunesekera said.

Susan Harvey, a senior occupational health nurse for Duke Regional Employee Occupational Health, said that she often sees nurses commit to drinking a certain amount of water during each break. With shifts keeping nurses on their feet, making a point to hydrate during breaks is the best way to ensure they get the water they need.

“You just need to put it in your brain that ‘I need to drink,’” said Harvey, who also recommends drinking water before and after work if your workday is too hectic to get in the recommended amounts.

You can enlist the help of technology to keep you on track with your water-consumption goals. There is an array of apps for your smartphone and other devices designed to keep track of your hydration and remind you to drink.

Find what works

For all of the reasons to drink more water, it’s not hard to find excuses not to do it. Harvey said that when she’s advising co-workers about how to stay hydrated, she said it’s important to simply find what works best for them.

If plain water isn’t appetizing, try flavoring it by adding sliced fruit such as lemons or oranges, or add low-calorie packets of flavoring.

While drinking beverages with caffeine or carbonation is preferable to drinking nothing, Brooks cautioned against drinking things with too much sugar because such drinks contain calories but add nothing nutritionally.

“You just need to do whatever it takes to make it easier,” Brooks said.

Listen to your body

If you’re not drinking enough water, your body will let you know.

Warning signs of dehydration include headaches, dry mouth, dry skin, dark urine or feeling sluggish, dizzy or nauseous.

Brooks, the dietitian with LIVE FOR LIFE, said that when you’re dehydrated, your body is often tricked into feeling hungry. A late afternoon urge to snack may simply be a response to dehydration.

And once you start giving the water your body needs, it’ll be easier to know when you don’t.

Gunesekera said that her water intake can slow down when travels for work. When that happens, she said she feels her muscles get tight and she doesn’t feel right.

“When I don’t drink, I can feel it,” Gunesekera said.

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