You would probably like to think that you’re regularly getting an adequate amount of water. After all, drink 64 ounces a day and you should be set, right? But apparently, more and more people complain of dehydration symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and dark urine even after those eight 8- ounce glasses. Why might this be?
There are several factors that can negatively impact an individual’s hydration levels, some of which might be everyday habits you’re guilty of. Here are some hydration mistakes you may need to look out for:
You’re avoiding fruits and vegetables
While water itself is the best source for hydration, it’s helpful to also consume foods that are high in water concentration, especially fruits and vegetables.
Seeing as the taste of water (or supposed lack thereof) can be off-putting for some, eating fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water can provide many of the same benefits of drinking water while also providing a more interesting taste.
Here are some examples of water-dense fruits and vegetables:
There are plenty more, but these are just some of the more versatile items I could think of. You could eat a salad with carrots and baby tomatoes for lunch, or snack on a peach between meals. Either way, you’d be getting more water without really even realizing it.
You’re relying on the wrong drinks
Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade promise benefits like electrolyte (potassium, sodium, calcium, etc.) and water replacement. However, it’s important to emphasize that these drinks are for people with active lifestyles. As you exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat and increased respiration. Sports drinks are designed to replace those lost nutrients.
So what happens if you drink sports drinks regularly without the active lifestyle? An excessive amount of electrolytes will be present in the body, including sodium, which can be particularly dehydrating at higher levels. This is because excess sodium in the blood pulls water out of body cells, causing them to shrivel and function inefficiently.
Caffeinated drinks are also not to be heavily relied on. While one coffee or tea a day will not be detrimental to your hydration levels as both contain mostly water anyway, having them as your drinks of choice very well might dehydrate you. Caffeine itself is a diuretic, meaning that more water will be lost through urine with prolonged consumption. Therefore, drinking only coffee/tea/sodas could cause dehydration if you don’t follow up with some regular water.
Bottom line: don’t rely on drinks that aren’t pure water to hydrate you. A coffee here and there won’t hurt, but having it be the only beverage you drink can definitely affect how hydrated you are.
You’re not getting enough sleep
As it turns out, the amount of sleep you get might impact how much water you’re retaining. At first glance, it might appear that sleep and hydration are very tenuously linked. One might think: oh, that makes sense because you’re not able to drink when you’re asleep. But there’s more at play than that.
A hormone released by the pituitary gland called Antidiuretic Hormone, or ADH plays a key role in water retention. ADH signals the kidneys to retrieve water from urine, which allows the water to dilute the blood and thus remain in the body. This is one of the main ways the body tries to fight dehydration. While ADH is actively released during the day, it’s released more quickly and in greater amounts in later stages of the sleep cycle. The reason why this benefits the body is because as you sleep, there is water loss caused by respiration and restricted intake. So, if you’re not getting to those later stages of sleep, you still might experience symptoms of dehydration even if you’re getting all the water you think you need.
In fact, a study conducted by professors at Penn State found that among participants of a survey, short sleep was associated with more concentrated urine and feelings of thirst. The investigators stated that those who slept an average of six hours a night (or less) were more likely to display these symptoms of dehydration than those who slept an average of eight hours. This supports the idea that interruption of ADH release during sleep can cause a person to be more susceptible to dehydration at night.
In other words, getting at least eight hours of sleep can help ADH keep your hydration levels in check.
You’re not drinking enough water
This one can seem a bit silly, but it’s something to think about. The classic one-size-fits-all 8×8 (eight 8-ounce glasses a day) rule doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Instead, experts say that it depends on your weight and activity. Specifically, per day, you should be drinking between half an ounce and an ounce of water for every pound you weigh.2 So, if you weigh 130 lb., you should be drinking between 65 and 130 ounces of water a day. If you’re not very active and thus your water is not lost at quick rates via exercise, then half an ounce for every pound will suffice. However, if you lead a very active lifestyle, you might need to bump it up to an ounce per pound.
You’re drinking too much water (in a short amount of time)
Water intoxication comes from drinking too much water in a short amount of time. Remember how sodium pulls water out of cells and causes them to shrivel? Well, too much water at once can cause the cells to swell, which is responsible for many health issues like headaches and increased blood pressure. Your kidneys eliminate water by pushing it into the urine, but they can only do so much at one time. They can eliminate up to 7.4 gallons (947 ounces) of water per day, but can only eliminate about 30 ounces in an hour.3 So if you’re drinking all your water in one sitting and still feeling bad, you may want to revise your drinking habits.
As you can see, it is quite easy to stay properly hydrated by avoiding such things as drinking too much coffee, not getting enough sleep, or not consuming enough water and fruits.