Drinking water but still feel dehydrated? This might be why

We all know how important it is to drink enough water. Even if you do drink enough water (and make several trips to the bathroom), you might still feel like you’re not that hydrated after all. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. So, why does it happen? Here’s what you should know.

Why is hydration so key?

“Stay hydrated!” Hear that often? I bet. Less discussed is why you should. Most notably, keeping hydrated is necessary so that your body can support blood circulation, facilitate waste removal, maintain proper body temperature, protect the organs, and more. Most recommendations suggest aiming for two liters of water per day, although this can vary depending on diet, activity level, and medications. Diet can play a big factor in hydration, although it is frequently overlooked. Produce like cucumber, berries, celery, tomato, and zucchini contain higher amounts of water and micronutrients.

Why do people feel dehydrated when they drink enough water?

There could be different reasons for this, but the biggest is electrolyte imbalance. Water isn’t the only thing you need for proper hydration. You also need electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Drinking too much water can dilute these electrolytes. Additionally, if you’re someone who only drinks distilled water, you won’t get those electrolytes.

Your body tries hard to maintain proper fluid balance. One way that it achieves this is by using the help of electrolytes to assist your cells. Most Americans get enough sodium every day, and they usually exceed the recommended 2,300-milligram maximum. At the same time, most Americans do not meet the recommended 4,700 milligrams of potassium, or 400 milligrams of magnesium per day.

Bananas, coconut water, potatoes, beans, and lentils are some of the top dietary sources of this potassium. Food sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Ensuring you get adequate water as well as electrolytes helps to not only facilitate better hydration than what only plain water would provide but also regulate blood pressure better. The good news is that many of these foods also contain water, meaning you get the best of both worlds.

Getting enough electrolytes becomes even more important if you are someone who sweats a lot. Not only do you lose water in sweat, but electrolytes as well. This is why many athletes grab drinks like Gatorade or electrolyte mixes to put into their water. While you want to be mindful of the sugar content in these drinks, simple carbohydrates may be beneficial as they can help to enhance the rate at which fluid is absorbed into the body.

man on sunny day drinking water
Photo by Nigel Msipa from Unsplash

Bottom Line

If you feel like you’re drinking enough water but don’t think you’re that hydrated, it may be because you’re not getting enough electrolytes. Water is only one part of the hydration picture, as it goes hand in hand with electrolytes.

Sometimes imbalances can happen from drinking too much water. Other times it can happen when electrolytes fail to be replenished properly. The solution probably isn’t to chug down even more water. Instead, try to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium and magnesium, and possibly include electrolyte mixes in your routine. This may be especially important if you’re an athlete or someone who sweats often.

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About the Author

Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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