Water is the best thing you can put in your body, yet so many of us ignore it throughout the day. Here are some great ways to trick yourself into developing a healthy habit of drinking lots of water every day.
Why You Should Be Drinking More Water
We need water to survive, but drinking enough to get by isn't ideal for your body. Water is required to cushion and lubricate your joints, protect your brain and other internal tissues, regulate your body temperature, and remove waste from your body through urination, bowel movements and perspiration. You've probably heard that our bodies are made mostly of water, and it's true. We need it.
When you don't have enough water, dehydration comes out to play. When you're dehydrated you'll experience dry mouth, low blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, dry skin and fatigue. In fact, there's a good chance that whatever is ailing you right now can be helped — at least a little — by drinking more water. You might be dehydrated and you don't even realise it. A simple way to tell is by taking a look at the colour of your urine. A light, transparent yellow (or clear) is what you want to aim for. Anything darker usually means you're not getting enough.
So how much do you need? While it's hard to determine an ideal amount exactly, we previously consulted with Dr Pamila Brar and there are some guidelines you can follow:
- Men should drink about 3 litres (about 13 cups) of total fluids a day.
- Women should drink about 2.2 litres (about 9 cups) of total fluids a day.
Men need a little more because they tend to be larger on average and naturally have a little more muscle mass — which holds water better than fatty tissues. Of course, pregnant women and nursing mothers need more water as well. If that seems like a ton of water to you, that's a bad sign. It actually breaks down to just four to eight sips of water per hour, but remembering to drink it is the hard part.
Not only do you have to remember to drink it, but you also have a lot of other tasty beverages out there competing to make their way inside of you. While a soft drink or sports drink may sound thirst-quenching, the sugar and other extras aren't going to do you any favours — and they might even make you more thirsty. If you can help it, stick to water. But if you really want a different beverage, at least drink water in addition to it. Remember, water is the cheapest drink out there!
Keep your daily activities in mind too. If you're exercising or doing any strenuous work, that can change how much water you need dramatically. The same goes if you've been drinking a lot of coffee, caffeinated tea or alcohol. They act as diuretics, causing you to urinate more and lose some water. Also, if you're in a warmer climate, you perspire more and need more water than you would in a temperate zone. It is possible to drink too much water — don't overdo it — but your body can process 15 litres of it every day, so don't stress about it too much.
Hide It In Your Daily Routine
If you already have a good morning and bedtime routine, make drinking water a part of it. You can still have your morning coffee, but add a glass of water in beforehand. The Natural Choice blog recommends having a glass at the same time and in the same place during your routine every day:
...get in the habit of drinking a glass of water right after you get out of the shower, or right before you wash your face at night. This is an easy way to add at least two glasses of water a day to your routine.
Wake up, have a glass of water. Get ready for bed, have a glass of water. Just by doing that you get a head start on the rest of the day. If you're having a hard time remembering to incorporate it in your routine, find ways to make your water more visible. Put a glass of water on your nightstand so you see it before you go to bed or have a glass waiting by the coffee maker so you remember to have a glass while your joe brews.
Get a Decent Water Bottle and Mark It with Time-Oriented Goals
Water bottles are an excellent way to increase your water intake. Get a high-quality one, even if it costs you a little more. A good stainless steel or heavy-duty plastic bottle should do the trick. Once you've found one you like, take it with you everywhere.
You can take your water bottle usage to the next level by coming up with your own timed drinking goals and marking it on the bottle. Get some tape or a label maker and start marking how much water you'd like to drink by a certain time every day. This way you can actually see your water drinking goal and you'll know whether you need to play catch up or if you're ahead of the game.
It doesn't hurt to really make your water bottle your own, either. Cindy Dyson at SparkPeople suggests that the more you like your water bottle, the more likely you'll want to use it:
Whether it's your favourite colour or a unique design, the more you bond with your bottle, the less likely you'll be to lose it. Slap an inspirational sticker or image onto it, or even write on it with a permanent marker. Now you're ready to drink from it throughout the day — don't forget to refill it as soon as it's empty.
There are a lot of good options for water bottles out there, but the most important thing is that you like it. You'll never stay on track with a water bottle you hate using or are embarrassed to be seen with.
Make It a Game
Gamification is an effective way to get yourself to do a lot of things, and drinking water is no exception. Incentivise your new water habit by rewarding yourself when you reach milestones. Go a whole week drinking your goal every day? Treat yourself to something you don't normally get. It goes both ways too. Forget to drink enough water yesterday? No video games until you've made up for it.
Competition is a great way to keep your drive too, and on her blog, the "Tri Sport Girl" suggests a race is the perfect way to compete with yourself:
Everything is more fun as a competition.... Apply the same concept to water consumption, and suddenly you're racing to see how much water you can drink by lunchtime (my current PB is 1.25L) or how soon in the day you can finish 2L (my PB is 2:36pm).
Just be sure you're not just drinking a bunch of water in the morning and none for the rest of the day. It's best to spread it out, but a challenge is always a good way to keep yourself engaged. However you like to gamify your life, find a tool that works for you and track what you do. When you can see how well you're playing your own game it can only help you.
Set a Timer and Create Mental Triggers
If you're still having a hard time remembering to drink water, set a timer on your phone. Create a few alarms set to go off throughout the day and when one goes off chug a big glass of water. This might seem like overkill, but nothing snaps you back into a routine like a phone screaming at you to drink.
Part of building a new habit is finding a way to do things without the need of outside help, however, so it's a good idea to create your own mental triggers. For example, if you start to feel hungry, have a glass of water. This does a few things for you: it will help your stomach and intestine on the digestive front, keep you hydrated, and possibly even curb your hunger. In fact, you may not even be that hungry and your brain just sent you the wrong signals for what it needed.
You can also make mental triggers for other things like having a glass of water every time you use the restroom or taking a sip of water every time you stop working. Have a sudden craving for junk food? Grab a glass of water instead. Triggers can be requirements you have to meet as well. Lauren Conrad — yes, that Lauren Conrad — made a rule that she can't start each meal until she's finished a one litre bottle of water. It sounds kind of extreme if you don't spread out your drinking, but it's a great way to force yourself to focus on water first and food second.
Jazz Up Your Water Drinking Experience
You might be more inclined to drink water if it was a little more interesting. If that's the case, there are plenty of ways to go beyond plain, boring H2O. Some fruit or cucumber in your water adds a little flavour without adding in the sugar you'd find in straight fruit juice. Freeze some lemon slices in ice cubes for an easy water upgrade or try a little ginger and herbs to switch things up a bit. If you're missing the fizz from your soda, try some sparkling water or club soda. You'll get the bubbly without the other not-so-great stuff.
Just like a personal water bottle, having a good water glass that fits you is important too. Use a glass you love and you'll feel better about drinking from it. For example, I drink my water from a large Spider-Man glass (seriously, it's awesome). It reminds me that super heroes drink their water, so I should too.
If super heroes aren't your thing, consider a fun straw. If a crazy straw will get you to drink more, do it. Plus, drinking from a straw can help you drink more in the long run. You'll sip and sip, not realising how much you've actually had. Sure, you could probably drink just as much by chugging, but sipping from a straw takes less effort so you're more inclined to do it.
Eat Your Water
Yes, food has water in it too. It may not have enough for you to only eat your daily intake of water, but there are some foods you can snack on that can help. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of water, and also make for a healthy alternative to chips or candy. Here are some of the fruits and veggies with the highest water content:
Cucumber, Lettuce, Celery, Radishes, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Cauliflower, Watermelon, Spinach, Strawberries, Broccoli, Grapefruit, Apricots, Cherries, Grapes, and Zucchini.
Pick your favourites and keep those around. It's important to note, however, that when you cook these things, they lose a lot of their water, so they're best eaten raw.
Drinking more water can literally change your life for the better. When you're properly hydrated, you can digest easier, sleep better and think clearer. Learn to love the taste of water, because every single sip is good for you.