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8 Ways to Stay Hydrated If You Hate Drinking Water

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For all the hype surrounding status water bottles—looking at you, Stanley and Owala—it turns out many of us aren’t drinking nearly enough H2O. “It’s a struggle,” says Vanessa King, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Queen’s Health System in Oahu, Hawaii. “We see thousands of people a month, and drinking enough water comes up all the time.”

Exactly how much you need to drink every day depends on a variety of factors, including your age, activity level, how much you sweat, and your Health status, as well as which medications you take (some can cause dehydration) and your location (hot places call for more water). One rule of thumb, King says, is to drink half your weight in water (in ounces) every day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, your target would be 70 ounces—or at least eight 8-ounce glasses—per day. To zero in on a more specific number, she advises talking to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

If you’re not getting enough water, you’ll be able to tell: Your mouth might get dry, King says, and your pee will become darker than normal. You might get a headache or feel dizzy. Plus, you’ll feel thirsty. People who are truly dehydrated—which is common among older adults—can experience altered mental status, hypotension, kidney failure, and other complications that may require hospitalization. 

Being well-hydrated, on the other hand, is linked to improved mood and cognition, as well as optimal physical performance. It can aid weight loss, alleviate constipation, and even make your skin look Healthier. If you're drinking the right amount of water, “there’s only positives,” says Maya Feller, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Brooklyn and author of Eating from Our Roots: 80+ Healthy Home-Cooked Favorites from Cultures Around the World. “There’s just so many benefits.”

But realistically, how do you glug all that water (especially if it's far from your favorite beverage)? We asked experts to share how they manage to drink enough every day.

Add one glass per week

Lots of people avoid drinking water because they don’t want to have to make frequent beelines to the bathroom during the workday. Easing into it, however, can teach your body to tolerate a new level of water intake. “I encourage people to have that first glass as close to waking up as possible, because if they’re going to go to the bathroom, it’s going to happen at home and not on their commute or when they get to the office,” Feller says. After a week, add in an extra glass when you get home from work, which will allow your body to adjust to two additional glasses per day. Then, in week three, add an additional glass at any point during the day. “Keep going until you get to your desired amount,” Feller says, giving your body a week to adjust to each new glass of water.

Schedule nudges throughout the day

If you routinely forget to drink enough water, consider enlisting technological assistance. “Phone reminders are a very cool thing,” says Melanie Betz, a registered dietitian in Chicago who specializes in renal and geriatric nutrition. Lots of apps offer the ability to schedule hydration nudges throughout the day.

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For people who want a fancy, high-tech solution, Betz sometimes recommends a HidrateSpark “smart” water bottle, which tracks how much you drink—and starts glowing when you haven’t had enough. It can also send reminders to your phone when you haven’t had any water in a certain amount of time. Or, of course, you can keep things simple and set alarms for, say, 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., and 6 p.m., she says. That way, your smartwatch will vibrate or your phone will ding when it’s time to drink.

Start a water log

Any time you’re trying to make a Lifestyle change, it helps to have a specific goal, Betz points out. Pledging to drink 100 ounces of water a day, for example, is more effective than thinking, “I’ll start drinking more water,” she says. It can be hard to keep track of your intake throughout the day, so consider starting a Notes app memo where you list how much you drank, and at what time. That will help reveal patterns and let you know where you could make changes, she says; you might notice you don’t drink much in the morning, for instance. And remember, It takes time to develop a new habit. “Give yourself some grace,” Betz says—you’re not going to jump from 16 ounces to 64 overnight.

Add herbs to your water or ice cubes

If you find water boring—and let’s be real, it can be—experiment with fun ways to jazz it up. King likes adding “flavor enhancers” such as slices of lemon and lime and chunks of pineapple. “It becomes very tropical,” she says. Or prepare a glass of cucumber water: Drop sliced cucumbers into your water, along with some ginger and mint. “It looks pretty and makes it more inviting,” King says. “Plus it’s something your friends can get on board with when they come over and drink water.”

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Betz enjoys testing out different herbs. One of her favorite concoctions is water infused with watermelon and basil, which she finds much more interesting than plain. Blackberry and rosemary also work well, she says, and feel fancy.

Speaking of elevated options: Feller suggests treating yourself to herb-filled ice cubes. Choose a couple of your favorites, like basil and mint, and then mash them up or mince them before adding them to an ice-cube tray. Pour water on top, freeze, and enjoy. “It’s so good, and it makes the drink pretty,” she says.

Ditch the colorful water bottles

Invest in a clear water bottle, and always carry it with you, King suggests. “A lot of people who carry water bottles carry them home full,” she says. “A clear one lets you see how you’re doing.” If a completely full bottle is in your face all day, after all, you’ll probably get the hint that it’s time to take a sip.

Another way to increase visibility, King says, is to put a glass of water on your bedside table. That way, you can make drinking water first thing in the morning a habit. It’s also helpful to keep pitchers of water on your kitchen counter and in other high-traffic areas.

Play with temperature

Feller works with people around the globe, and many don’t drink ice-cold water—they consider it “an American thing.” Regardless of where you live, you might find you prefer a different temperature, too. Leave your water out so it’s room temp, add some ice, or even boil it like you would tea, Feller advises. As you experiment with different temperatures, “you’ll find that it becomes a bit easier to drink once you know what temperature you prefer,” she says.

Pretend you’re a plant

The app Plant Nanny makes drinking fun, says King, who’s recommended it to her patients. Once you download it, you’ll become responsible for virtual plants; each time you log that you’ve had a glass of water, your plants will be watered, too. “When I first tested it out, I turned it on and my plant was wilted,” King recalls. “And it was super cute. I was immediately emotionally attached to it—you forget it’s not a real plant.” That made her want to meet her daily hydration goals, she says, noting that the app is a good fit for parents helping their kids understand the importance of staying well-hydrated.

Read More: Your Houseplants Have Some Powerful Health Benefits

Expand your definition of “water”

Chugging glassfuls of water isn’t the only way to hydrate. Dairy and dairy alternatives, like almond milk and soy milk, also contain water, King points out; in fact, it's the first ingredient listed on labels.

And don’t overlook the role that fruits, vegetables, broths, soups, and stews can play in your daily hydration goals. Some of the most water-heavy choices include melons like cantaloupe and watermelon; berries such as strawberries; and leafy greens like spinach, cucumbers, and zucchini, King says. Other smart choices include bananas, pears, oranges, pineapples, carrots, broccoli, and avocados. “A good dose of fruits and vegetables in your day can also help with meeting your water target,” she says. So if you absolutely can’t stand the thought of one more glass of water, consider consuming it a tastier way instead.

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