4 Sneaky Dehydration Mistakes and How to Fix Them

If you’re attached to your water bottle like a security blanket, then you know that staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your body. The benefits of staying hydrated are multifold and trickle into just about every aspect of your well-being, from gut health and mood to even longevity. But even for the most hydration-conscious folks, it’s easy to fall prey to dehydration mistakes and not get the recommended amount of fluids you need daily (which depends on a host of personal factors).

Here are some surprising dehydration mistakes—and how to fix it—according to a dietitian.

1. Forgoing drinking water upon waking

ICYMI, your nightly shuteye is a dehydrating event, which underscores the importance of drinking water once you rub the sleep out of your eyes and hop out of bed. “After going several hours overnight without fluids, we need to replenish to avoid starting off the day in a dehydrated state,” explains Sarah Lynn Quick, RDN, a dietitian based in Syracuse, New York and nutrition advisor for Cure Hydration. While drinking water first thing in the morning will work to everyone’s benefit, those who sleep with their mouth open at night (slash breathe through their nose) are particularly susceptible to higher fluid loss, she says.

In any case, Quick advises integrating proper hydration into your morning ritual. Perhaps that’ll entail keeping a glass of H2O on your bedside table, leaving your favorite cup front and center on your kitchen island, or setting a reminder until it becomes habitual. To help you stay on track, “use a hydration tracker app to remind you to drink water and monitor progress with your goals, or get a water bottle with goals for each hour of the day,” she shares.

2. Drinking coffee before sipping water

This dehydration mistake goes hand in hand with the previous one. “As caffeine is a diuretic, it can lead to increased urination and fluid losses,” Quick explains. “The effects can be more extreme if [you’re] already dehydrated after going all night without fluids.” That said, if your morning coffee (or other caffeinated beverage of choice, like black or green tea) is the first thing to hit your lips upon waking, aim to put it second in line to water.

3. Not hydrating enough after losing fluids

While it’s necessary to hydrate steadily throughout the day, you’ll need to be extra mindful of replenishing after losing fluids. According to Quick, the instances in which you’ll absolutely need to kick your hydration game into high gear include excessive physical activity, sauna use, or simply living in hot and/or humid weather. Per the UK’s National Health Service, additional causes of dehydration include being sick, having diarrhea, drinking alcohol, and taking diuretics (i.e., meds that make you urinate often). Air travel, too, is a common culprit—as is spending time, or living, in high altitudes.

4. Skimping on electrolytes

This is one of the most common dehydration mistakes. Sometimes, prioritizing H2O alone won’t suffice to adequately hydrate yourself… and doing so may even exacerbate dehydration by flushing out electrolytes without replacing them. Since electrolytes maintain fluid balance inside and outside of your cells, they play a major role in the hydration equation.

You may find it surprising that sodium is a key electrolyte you want to focus on for hydration. “Sodium, one of the main electrolytes important for hydration, is often negatively associated with high blood pressure and has led to many limiting or avoiding sodium in their diet,” Quick says. “However, sodium and other electrolytes are necessary nutrients to consume daily, especially when engaging in activities that lead to sweating and electrolyte losses.”

That said, you should consult your healthcare team about incorporating electrolytes into your diet, especially if you’ve been advised to limit your sodium intake and/or pay closer attention to other electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium. With these points in mind, Quick notes that boosting your electrolyte intake can be pretty seamless through your diet alone.

“Bananas, oranges, potatoes, avocados, spinach, strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, pickles, dairy, nuts, and legumes are just some electrolyte-rich foods that can help with adequate hydration,” she says. Moreover, you can always keep a stash of electrolyte packets on hand when you need some extra help to combat the side effects of dehydration such as excessive thirst, dizziness, muscle cramps, and sugar cravings.

When possible, opt for electrolyte drinks and powders with as little sugar and additives as possible (which inevitably bumps sugary and colorful sports drinks down the list of best hydration solutions). “I recommend Cure to my patients as it’s all-natural; has no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, chemicals or dyes; and is based on the World Health Organization’s Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) formula,” she shares. Quick is also a fan of Harmless Harvest coconut water, as well as diversifying overall fluid intake with the likes of infused water and herbal tea.

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