4 common dehydration mistakes and how to fix them

YoIf you cling 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 manifold and reflect on almost every aspect of your wellbeing, from gut health and mood to longevity. But even for the most hydration-conscious people, it’s easy to fall into dehydration pitfalls and not get the recommended amount of fluids you need daily (which depends on a number of personal factors).

Here are some surprising dehydration mistakes (and how to fix them), according to a dietitian.

1. Give up drinking water when you wake up

In case you missed it, sleeping at night is a dehydrating process, which underscores the importance of drinking water once you rub your eyes and get out of bed. “After going several hours without fluids overnight, we need to replenish ourselves to avoid starting the day dehydrated,” explains Sarah Lynn Quick, RDN, a Syracuse, New York-based dietitian and nutritional advisor for Cure Hydration. While drinking water first thing in the morning is beneficial for everyone, those who sleep with their mouths open at night (i.e., breathe through their nose) are particularly susceptible to increased fluid loss, she says.

In any case, Quick recommends integrating proper hydration into your morning routine. Maybe that means keeping a glass of water on your nightstand, leaving your favorite mug in the center of the kitchen island, or setting a reminder until it becomes a habit. To help you stay on track, “use a hydration tracking app that reminds you to drink water and monitor your goal progress, or buy a water bottle with goals for each hour of the day,” she shares.

2. Drink coffee before drinking water.

This dehydration mistake goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. “Since caffeine is a diuretic, it can cause increased urination and fluid loss,” 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 another caffeinated beverage of your choice, like black or green tea) is the first thing that hits your lips when you wake up, try putting it second, after water.

3. Not hydrating enough after losing fluids

While you need to hydrate consistently throughout the day, you’ll need to take extra care to replenish lost fluids. According to Quick, situations where you’ll definitely need to up your hydration level include excessive physical activity, sauna use, or simply living in a hot and/or humid climate. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service, other causes of dehydration include being sick, having diarrhea, drinking alcohol, and taking diuretics (i.e., medications that cause you to urinate frequently). Air travel is also a common culprit, as is spending time or living at high altitudes.

4. Skimping on electrolytes

This is one of the most common mistakes in dehydration. Sometimes, prioritizing H2O alone isn’t enough to properly hydrate… and doing so can even exacerbate dehydration by removing electrolytes without replenishing them. Since electrolytes maintain fluid balance inside and outside of cells, they play an important role in the hydration equation.

It may come as a surprise that sodium is a key electrolyte 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 many people to limit or avoid sodium in their diet,” Quick says. “However, sodium and other electrolytes are necessary nutrients that should be consumed daily, especially when engaging in activities that cause sweating and electrolyte loss.”

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

“Bananas, oranges, potatoes, avocados, spinach, strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, pickles, dairy products, nuts, and legumes are some of the electrolyte-rich foods that can help maintain proper hydration,” she says. Plus, you can always keep a stash of electrolyte packets on hand when you need extra help combating 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 displaces sugary, colorful sports drinks on the list of best hydration solutions). “I recommend Cure to my patients because it’s all-natural; it has no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, chemicals, or coloring; and it’s 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 her overall fluid intake with infused water and herbal tea.

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