Maintaining an optimal level of hydration can even help you avoid heart attacks and strokes; both are more likely if your blood is too thick because you don't drink enough water, according to the National Jewish Health Organization.
To get on the right side of the water equation, try these tips:
Beware of dark yellow or strongly-scented urine. Here's one area where nurses have a one-up on maintaining healthy hydration levels. Because of your job duties, it probably won't seem odd to keep tabs on the color of your urine. "The number of cups you drink isn't the deciding factor when it comes to hydration status," Jenny Askew, MS, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C told the AJC. "If you are well hydrated, the most reliable indicator is your urine, which should be clear and odorless."
If your urine starts becoming a progressively darker shade of yellow or you notice the smell is strong, you probably aren't drinking enough water, explained Askew, who counsels patients at Balance Fitness and Nutrition in Alpharetta. "Of course, other factors can affect the color of your urine, too, such as medications, vitamins and certain foods. Keep them in mind as well," she added.
Set your own optimal amount. How much water you'll need to stay hydrated varies by your height and weight and how active you are, according to Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation cardiac clinical nurse specialist Alice Benjamin. An ER nurse may need more water than, say, an IT nurse who stays mostly at her desk, for example. In general, said Benjamin, "focus on staying hydrated by drinking water often instead of stressing about how many ounces you're sipping."
Drink before you feel thirsty. Counterintuitive, certainly. But if you're thirsty, you're probably already dehydrated and may be on your way to a headache. "Stave off thirst by drinking water even when you're not parched," Benjamin added.
Take your water bottle wherever you go. As a former trainer on "Biggest Loser" and the creator of Total Body Workout DVDs, Dothard emphasized the importance of keeping a water bottle at the ready, at work, in the car, at lunch. "It will remind you to stay hydrated," he said. At the same time, if you've got water handy, you have no reason to pick up a dehydrating latte or soda because you're 'thirsty.'
Surprised that none of the fitness experts mentioned drinking water as an appetite suppressant? That's because the idea you should drink water when you're hungry is one of the many H2O health myths. As the editors of Fitness explained, just drinking extra water doesn't make you lose weight. "You may eat less, because you're too busy trucking back and forth between the bathroom and dinner table," they said. "But that's about it."