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Creative Ways to Stay Hydrated

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Oh-so-easy ways to drink enough water this summer

The importance of staying hydrated is well-documented: About 60 percent of the human body is composed of water, and every major system depends on water to function properly. Water helps control your body temperature, helps blood circulate and aids in digestion.

We all know that it's important to drink plenty of water, but sometimes it's hard to work enough into your daily routine. Here are some ideas to help you stay hydrated.

Count liquids other than water
As a general rule of thumb, health experts recommend that you follow the eight-by-eight rule: Drink at least 8 ounces of fluid eight times a day. Good old-fashioned water is your best bet, but according to the Mayo Clinic, you can count other liquids — milk, juice, tea, coffee and even soda — toward your daily totals. What doesn't count is alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, drink a glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume to replenish fluids.

Infuse your water with pizzazz
If the taste of plain water turns you off, consider drinking infused water. You can have a lot of fun experimenting with different flavor combinations. The Huffington Post rounded up some great ideas in July 2012 — everything from "creamsicle" water (orange slices and vanilla bean) to cucumber-lemongrass. Check out other options at www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/water-flavors_n_1665025.html.

Choose water-rich snacks
Especially when it's hot outside, it's a good idea to eat fruits that contain lots of water. According to WebMD.com, the top contender is watermelon, as it's 90 percent water. Other hydrating fruit choices include melons (such as cantaloupe and honeydew), oranges and grapefruit.

Veggies generally don't contain as much water as fruit, but there are still some hydrating options, such as celery and cucumbers. Soup and smoothies also help you stay hydrated.

Track your water intake in a fun way
When it comes to tracking your water intake, there is — of course — an app for that. Multiple apps, in fact. For instance, Waterlogged is a free app for Android and Apple devices that allows users to track their liquid intake using photographs of their glasses. The premium version offers reminders and graphs of water intake.

For the less technologically minded, try this idea: Choose a small, healthy treat, such as grapes. Count out eight grapes at the beginning of the day. Each time you drink 8 ounces of liquid, eat a grape. When you finish the grapes, you'll know that you've reached your intake goals for the day.

Wear a hydration pack during exercise
No matter what time of year it is, you need to take extra steps to stay hydrated while exercising. WebMD.com recommends drinking at least 16 ounces of water one hour prior to exercise, at least 4 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes while exercising, and an additional 16 ounces within an hour after completing exercise.

To help you attain these levels, consider wearing a hydration pack while hiking or cycling. This is the ultimate in "hands-free" hydration. A pack eliminates the cumbersome juggling of water bottles. Outdoor retailer REI offers a comprehensive guide to choosing the right hydration pack for your needs at www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hydration-system.html.

To determine if you are staying hydrated, monitor your thirst level and the color of your urine. If you are rarely thirsty, and your urine is colorless or light yellow, then you are doing a good job of taking in enough liquid.

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