First of all, I will out myself and admit that I’m not a huge fan of drinking water. Three cups of coffee could go down easily; three glasses of plain water, not so much! But I’ve learned to listen to the subtle cues my body sends me when I am in need of water, and I make a conscious effort to drink at least two litres of water per day. This amount can vary from day to day. For example, if it’s really hot out and I’ve had a workout, I’m going to need more. If I haven’t sweated or exerted myself that much, I don’t worry about it as much. Instead of sticking to a strict amount, I carry a water bottle with me wherever I go so that I will have ready access to it before I get really thirsty. I try to listen to my body and give it the amount it needs. It’s way healthier to sip on water all throughout the day than to just chug a big amount all at once.
When I wake up in the morning, I drink a glass or two of water before doing anything. I don’t like to drink a ton of water before bed, because I don’t want my sleep to be disturbed going to the bathroom at night. If I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I’ve literally been fasting for 8 or 9 hours. So when I wake up, my body really needs the hydration.
If you’re chronically dehydrated, your body starts pulling fluids away from your skin, hair, eyes, vocal cords, mouth and other areas to preserve water for vital organs such as your heart. At this point you may not be severely dehydrated to the point of needing medical intervention, but you will probably be feeling lethargic and generally depleted. Other signs that you may need to up your water intake include: a nagging cough that just won’t go away, dry hair (even though you use oils and high quality, sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners), headaches, muscle and joint pain (my TMJ always starts flaring up if I’m not hydrated enough), as well as dry, chapped lips.
Adequate water intake can also contribute to more stable moods. Emotions and water are deeply connected; emotions are energies that ebb and flow in a very fluid way. I find that when every cell of my body is getting what it needs- deep breaths, plenty of clean water and good nutrition- everything in my life just flows better. I’m more alert, have more clarity and I’m better able to handle stress. Dehydration can also exacerbate PMS symptoms by worsening bloating and cramps, as well as making your complexion dull and increasing breakouts.
So, water isn’t the tastiest of substances out there, especially when you aren’t particularly that thirsty. I find that the more I drink, the more I develop a taste for it, but it still can get tedious drinking a litre or more everyday. There are ways to spice things up without adding unnecessary calories, sugar or caffeine, which can dehydrate you more. I’ve discovered infused water– there are so many simple yet delicious recipes that subtly infuse your water with flavour. I like to experiment with different recipes, but my go-to is lemon with cucumber and mint leaves. I love how fresh and tangy it tastes. I also like to make herbal iced teas. You just boil a strong herbal tea like peppermint or camomile. You can add honey to sweeten it up a bit while it’s hot (my favourite to use is Manuka, which has anti-bacterial properties). Let it cool down then pour it in a glass jug filled with ice cubes and let it chill. You can also throw in lemon, lime, oranges and other fruits to taste.
A lot of the hydration we get comes from food. So, if you incorporate a lot of fruits and veggies, as well as soups and smoothies, into your diet, you’ll automatically be upping your water intake as well as adding fiber and nutrients.
A word of caution about water bottles- I like to take a water bottle with me if I’m going to be out for more than an hour. Especially if you start making infused water or iced teas, you may want to have them with you rather than having to pay for a bottle of plain water while you’re out. Just make sure the bottle you choose is BPA free, or opt for a stainless steel or glass one (as long as you can be careful not to break it). Whatever bottle you choose, be cautious about resusing it; if you reuse them too often without washing they can harbour nasty germs and bacteria and even grow mold.
If you’re not sure whether or not you’re getting enough water, try gradually increasing your amount for a few weeks and see how you feel. By gradually increasing your water intake over a period of time, your body will have time to acclimate and you won’t find yourself having to go to the bathroom non stop. You may notice that you have more energy and feel less anxious, or even that your digestion has improved. Drinking more water is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to improve your health. You have nothing to lose!