When speaking with a registered dietitian about when to drink water during the day, we learned that the answer isn't so straightforward. While we know that staying hydrated is a key priority—especially as we age—the way we go about it can depend on a lot of factors, like how much we consume at a time, when we choose to do it during the day, and what types of hydrating drinks we're downing. Fortunately, we have answers about the best ways to schedule your hydration routine.
What’s the best routine for staying hydrated?
To cut to the chase, according to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, drinking water is essential no matter what. “More than half of all Americans are chronically dehydrated. Being chronically dehydrated can make people feel tired and can increase a person's risk of having a urinary tract infection and kidney health issues, among other concerns,” Manaker says.
This is why Manaker’s number one priority is simply getting people to drink water in the first place. “Before we start worrying about the timing of when we drink water, we need to get people to actually drink water, no matter which time of the day it is,” she says. However, according to the expert, the most ideal way to maintain hydration is by spreading it throughout the day—full stop. “Ideally, we should all be drinking water consistently throughout the day, but unfortunately, many of us are not doing that,” Manaker says. "This is because our bodies lose water throughout the day. So, it is best to replenish this loss with water consistently."
So... is it bad to drink your daily water quota all at once?
It's only natural to lose track of time and occasionally find yourself with the dire need to quench your thirst for the first time halfway through the day. So, is it really that bad to drink your daily water quota all at once? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it’s far better than being dehydrated; on the other, it must be done in moderation. “Drinking water at once allows for a person to actually get in the fluid that their body needs,” Manaker says. However, it shouldn’t be overdone. “Although it is a rare risk, drinking too much water at once can cause sodium imbalance in certain people, which could result in a seizure and other negative effects. But to reiterate, this is extremely rare."
At the (ahem) end of the day, the most important thing is hydrating in the way that works best for your body. “While not ideal, if chugging, say, once in the morning and once in the evening is all a person can handle, I would prefer that over a person not drinking enough water at all.”
TL; DR? Drinking some water, even if it’s all at once, is better than none whatsoever.
Water isn’t the only hydrating beverage you can consume
According to Manaker, plain old water isn’t the only hydration superhero. Other water-based drinks, including coffee (yay!), can count toward your water intake goals, too. “Beverages that contain caffeine, like coffee, may have a mild diuretic effect, but it appears that the hydrating factor outweighs the water-losing factor. In other words, people can ‘count’ their cup of coffee toward their daily hydration quota,” Manaker says. Phew.
But there’s one small caveat, which is that caffeinated beverages shouldn’t replace water altogether by any means. “Coffee should not be the only drink people enjoy throughout the day. There is something to be said for leaning on a classic glass of hydrating water,” Manaker says.
However, if drinking water just isn’t that palatable for you, you can also eat your way to hydration, too. “Food absolutely accounts for some of our fluid intake. This is why during the summer months especially, I recommend eating foods that contain a lot of water, like watermelon and cucumbers. During the chillier months, enjoying a cozy bowl of soup can help people meet their fluid needs as well,” Manaker says. As far as a hydration no-no, alcohol definitely doesn’t count as water, just to be clear (pun intended). “Alcohol can be dehydrating, so it is not a recommended item to include to help support hydration.”
These are the *most* hydrating foods, according to an RD:
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