We all know that drinking plenty of water has a host of benefits to our health and fitness goals, but how do we make sure we are consuming enough of the crisp, clear good stuff? (Hopefully you’re not filling your bottles from a mud puddle).
This article is not about the many benefits of drinking more water…we all know that already, right? Just as we all know that we need to eat healthier meals and get more exercise.
But how do we just DO it?
How do we turn our knowledge of the importance and benefits of drinking more water into a habit that we can sustain?
Here are a few tips to help you develop this habit, and a strategy to help you consume enough water daily without much hassle so that you can create a lasting habit.
Tip #1 – Track your water intake
I am a big believer in tracking any habit you want to incorporate, or any change you wish to make in your life. If you don’t track a habit it’s easy to backslide or forget about it when you get busy.
Tracking will help you provide yourself with both daily accountability AND a means to see your progress. Tracking can mean the difference between making a lasting change, or letting things fall to the wayside.
There are lots of ways to track your water intake…there are plenty of free mobile apps that help you track your water intake. Some of them even allow you to simply input the amount of water you wish to drink in a day and they will schedule times for you and alert you when to drink. If you are currently using an app or website to track your food intake, almost all of them allow you to track water as well.
If you prefer a more “old school” approach, you can create a spreadsheet or Word document to create something like this:
Each time you drink a designated amount of water (let’s say 8 ounces) you will put an “X” in one of the boxes. Feel free to get creative with how you track. There is no “best” way to track water intake or any other habit other than the one that actually works best for you!
Tip #2 – Make it more convenient
You’re more likely to succeed with this habit if it is easy, less of a hassle, and water is more accessible to you. Here are a few ways to set you up for success:
Carry a water bottle everywhere. Always keep a bottle of water within arm’s reach. Bring a bottle with you to work each day and put it on your desk. You’re more likely to make the habit “stick” if water is always near you.
Set reminders. This will help you during the times you are busy. Set an alert on your phone. Make a sign and tape it to your refrigerator at home or your computer monitor at work, or inside your lunch box if you carry one. Put it into your daily calendar – schedule it and treat it just like any other important appointment you may have.
Make a rule. Create a rule for yourself to trigger you to drink water. Below are just a few examples, feel free to come up with your own. Again, whatever works best for you will ultimately help you achieve success with this habit!
**I suggest making only 1 rule. You don’t want to make it feel too restrictive on your daily life**
Remember, we want a habit we can stick to!
Before I drink my morning coffee, I will drink 20 ounces of water.
For every beer (or soda, sweet tea, etc.) I drink I will drink 1 glass of water.
When I eat out I will only drink water (save a LOT of money with this one!)
Drink when you feel hungry. Sometimes thirst can be disguised as hunger. If you are feeling a little hungry, use this as a cue to drink water. After a glass or two wait 20-30 minutes and if you still feel hungry then eat…and drink water while you eat.
Tip #3 – Make it more interesting
But water is so boring! I just can’t drink it…I need flavor!
No, that’s not what I think you might be saying (or cursing me under your breath). That’s what I actually say! Most of the time I have no problem drinking just plain ol’ H2O…but sometimes I just need some flavor.
I do not enjoy the flavor of ANY artificial sweeteners in water or any type of drink, so when it comes to flavoring my water I personally use some fresh lime wedges. I squeeze a little of the juice into my bottle or glass and then drop the wedges in.
Below are a few ways you can “dress up” your water to make it more palatable if you feel like you need some flavor. After all, for some of us convenience and tracking can sometimes only be a small piece of the puzzle to developing the habit of drinking more water.
Add a variety of “ingredients” to make water taste better to you:
Lemon or Lime
Other fresh fruit – oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, etc. Cut the fruit and squeeze the juice into the water
Zero calorie flavor mixes, such as Crystal Light or Mio
A pinch of Celtic Sea Salt (especially good if you drink most bottled waters or purify your own, which are often lacking in essential minerals and natural electrolytes)
If you like the zero calorie mixes with artificial sweeteners, try to limit them to only one or two 8oz drinks per day as they can, like just about anything else, create a host of problems on their own when consumed in excess.
Strategy to drink more water
To come up with a good strategy for making this habit more effective, we must determine how much water we should be drinking on a daily basis. The problem is that we cannot really determine how much each individual person needs to drink daily. There are many factors which will affect our daily needs, and everyone will be different, so there is no easy calculation or “blanket rule” that I can give you.
But…I can give you a great starting point. This is a general starting guideline which works well for most people, and definitely cannot hurt you. Start with this and then pay attention to the cues your body gives you, and be mindful of things like temperature, how much you exercise, how much you generally sweat, etc. You know your body better than anyone…use this as a guide and adjust if needed.
Drink ½ of your body-weight (in ounces) per day
Consume 25% of that amount first thing in the morning
As an example, a 200lb person would start with 100oz of water as a goal for their daily intake. Upon waking they would drink 25oz right away, leaving 75oz to spread throughout the rest of their day.
If we were to put it into a schedule format, it might look something like this:
Upon waking - 25 oz.
1 hour after waking - 8 oz.
After every cup of coffee/tea - 8 oz.
20-30 minutes before Lunch - 10-20 oz.
30 minutes before training - 10-20 oz.
During training - 6-10 oz.
After Training - 10-20 oz.
20-30 minutes before dinner - 10-20 oz.
As you can see, this would give you between 87 and 131 ounces. This will differ of course depending on how much coffee or tea you drink, as well as other factors related to training.
This is just an example to show you how to plan your water intake throughout the day. I encourage you to experiment and come up with your own plan if a plan is what you need. I simply carry a 40 ounce stainless steel water bottle with me everywhere I go and make sure I drink more than 2 of them on non-training days, and 3 or more on training days to compensate for additional water I’ve lost through sweating during training.
If you are wondering why I suggest you drink 25% of your daily water intake first thing in the morning, there a couple of reasons for this.
Hopefully you slept at least 7-9 hours the night before, which means you haven’t consumed any water for those 7-9 hours, and it will get you on the path to re-hydration
Water gets your metabolism fired up first thing in the morning.
If you are a breakfast eater, it will help your body absorb nutrients from your breakfast easier.
It is a good idea (for me at least) to drink the majority of my water early in the day. I really prefer not to wake up 2-3 times in the night to play toe slalom in the dark with my bedroom furniture as I stumble to the bathroom.
As you can see there is no one way to develop a lasting habit of drinking enough water. What may work for the Stay-at-Home Mom who is running kids around all day, grocery shopping, and training may be very different from the construction worker who is up on a roof for 8 hours a day in the hot sun. Their daily needs will also differ greatly, which will in turn affect their strategy.
It can oftentimes seem like a chore to drink water. It can feel even more so when we are not used to doing it with any kind of normal frequency. It even feels that way to me at times, but as with any change it becomes easier the more we do it, and the more we develop our healthy habits the healthier we will be.
Following these tips will help if you struggle to get enough water in your daily diet. They will help you develop a lasting habit. Use these tips or modify them to fit your body and your life, whatever you need to make developing the habit easier.
You may even notice that when you consistently drink more water you are eating less food and drinking fewer sodas, energy drinks, sweet teas, or whatever your high caloric drink of choice is…and we all know what that means!