Yeah, yeah, we all know “drinking lots of water” should be at the top of everyone’s wellness to-do list. But when life gets busy—like, so busy you don’t even have time to prep breadless avocado toast in the morning—it’s easy to forget a trip to the Brita now and then. Let your reusable bottle sit unfilled for most of the day, however, and the telltale signs of dehydration will reliably come creeping in: headaches, dry mouth, and turmeric-colored pee among them.
Of course, the best way to avoid this fate is to be mindful of your water intake in the first place. “We never want to wait to feel thirsty to drink—in fact, the sensation of feeling thirsty is already a late indicator of dehydration,” says Ilana Muhlstein, MS, RDN, and co-creator of the 2B Mindset nutrition program. “This is why I always recommend that people start every meal and snack by drinking 16 ounces of water first.”
If you’re eating three meals and two snacks a day, that hack will give you a head start in meeting your daily hydration requirements, which Muhlstein says you can calculate by dividing your body weight in half. But there are certain situations in which you’ll want to up that number even further. “A person’s water requirement will be heightened with exercise, sweat, stress, and an increased salt and protein intake,” Muhlstein says.
Yes, that translates to a lot of H2O, which admittedly can get, well, boring after a while. Fortunately, there are some drinks that nourish your bod just as effectively as water, while also giving your tastebuds a break from the same old-same old—a few favorites are listed below. But that’s only part of the equation. You’ll also want to wise up about the bevvies to avoid if you’re in the midst of dehydration damage control.
Scroll down for the best and worst things to drink if you’re dehydrated—besides water.
1. Healthy electrolyte drinks
Hot yoga fans will want to pay extra close attention to this one—excessive sweating can disrupt your electrolyte balance, and the effects are more serious if you’re dehydrated to begin with. “If you’re sweating or exercising a lot, it’d be ideal to supplement the water lost through sweat with an electrolyte-charged beverage,” says Muhlstein. The keto diet can also cause you to lose electrolytes, but no matter what the cause, the end result is the same: reduced muscle and brain power.
Muhlstein says to look for a flavored electrolyte supplement that you can add to plain water, which will help restore your body’s supply of minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. “These electrolytes work to improve our nervous system function and can prevent negative consequences of dehydration, such as muscle cramping,” she explains.
2. Coconut water
Supplements aren’t the only way to get your electrolyte fix. “Coconut water is high in potassium, a vital electrolyte, which helps build and strengthen muscles,” says Muhlstein. “One cup of coconut water also contains natural sugars and three grams of fiber, which provides a steady source of energy and fuel to our brains and bodies. This is critical if a person is experiencing impaired cognitive function due to dehydration.” Good riddance, brain fog.
3. Birch water
Think of this as coconut water’s cousin from the north, which has just as much hydrating power as the tropical favorite. “This up-and-coming plant water has a rich composition of electrolytes and micronutrients,” says Muhlstein. “Birch water is slightly sweet, with a lower sugar content than coconut water and is notably rich in manganese, which contributes to blood-sugar regulation.”
4. Sparkling Water
According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sparkling water was found to be just as hydrating as the kind from the tap. To ensure you’re getting all the benefits you want from your bubbly H2O, experts recommend that you go for the purest kind you can find—ideally, one without added sugar or sodium, nor artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.
5. Caffeinated beverages
Yes, your coffee, black tea, and oat latte habits are still hydrating. While many believe they’re a diuretic, scientific research actually indicates the opposite. Sure, you may find yourself having to pee a lot, but as long as you’re replenishing the liquid you’re losing, you’re not in danger of being dehydrated.
Drinks that contribute to dehydration
You might want to consider skipping happy hour if you’re feeling extra dehydrated. (Or at least chug one of the beverages above first.) “All alcohol dehydrates our bodily tissues, which is severely dangerous if a person is already dehydrated,” Muhlstein says. “The process of digesting alcohol requires an increased water intake—therefore, drinking alcohol without drinking water first puts an immense strain on the body.” This goes for everything at the bar: beer, wine, and spirits alike.
2. Sorbitol-containing drinks
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that’s commonly used to sweeten drinks—and it can really mess with your hydration status. “Many diet sodas and fruit juices contain sorbitol, which is effective at pulling water through the digestive tract and having a laxative effect on the body,” she says. (It’s found in prune juice—enough said.) “Be very careful to read the label when buying these drinks.” Or maybe just cut them out altogether…?
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