First, you’ve got to know what’s at stake should you become dehydrated. You lose water through breathing, digestion and sweating, and even minor dehydration can negatively impact your performance, hindering your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and blood pressure, and fuel working muscles.
So what if you don’t like the dull taste of nothingness? Fear not. You have other appropriate fluid intake options. If you are simply trying to stay hydrated throughout the day, or are working out for less than two hours in moderate temperatures, you don’t need carb calories in your beverage. So flavor your water with electrolyte replacements like Nuun, UCAN Hydrate, or SOS Rehydrate to excite your taste buds. Each of these options is 10 calories or less and provides sodium, a mineral that aids muscle contractions, cognitive function and fluid absorption. For workouts lasting more than 2 to 3 hours, you can drink calories as well as electrolytes. That opens you up to pretty much everything that’s not water, depending on the type of fuel plan you are using for training/racing.
Let’s get back to daily hydration. I’m going to level with you here: Most of the flavored water options are total junk—soda in disguise. It’s tough to find something other than water that’s not loaded with sugar or chemicals. Look for naturally flavored waters that contain no sugar or sweetener—or you can make your own. A few excellent options:
Flavored sparkling water, like La Croix and Perrier
Add a splash (1–2 ounces) of 100 percent fruit juice to club soda or plain water.
Homemade fruit-flavored water. Here’s how to make it: Soak fruit slices in a pitcher of water, or fill ice cube trays with diced fruit pieces, freeze and then add to water.
Remember to track your hydration by assessing urine color. If your urine is pale yellow, perfect—you are hydrating just right. If your urine is clear, you may be over-hydrating. If it’s apple-juice dark, you are likely under-hydrated. Keep in mind that vitamins can change the color of urine, but this is usually just right around the time you take them.
The bottom line: Pick flavored sparkling waters, or create your own fruit-flavored water when you don’t need the carbs.
Eat Your Water
Top off your water stores by consuming these foods, most of which are at least 90 percent water by weight.
Foods like soups, smoothies, yogurt and oatmeal will also help you stay hydrated.
Brooke Schohl, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D. is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Fueltothefinish.com). She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including three Ironmans.