Water is necessary for survival: it hydrates, sustains, and cleanses us. It’s responsible for nutrient transport, absorption, digestion, and excretion. Water regulates the body’s temperature and supports all the main systems of the body, and having enough of it each day should be an easy way to ensure its homeostatic efficiency. However, the means of how we consume water has been exaggerated by media, and the ways to stay hydrated are actually much simpler, convenient, and rather contingent on the basis of mere common sense. You, as HR, can debunk the misconceptions of drinking water and keep employees afloat of all the benefits of healthy hydration.
Here-in lies six suggestions that will challenge the way you think about water, and why it should be the water-cooler topic for the employees in your office.
1. Drink 8 Cups of Water Per Day Myth–We Actually Need More!
According to a nutrition study, “not only is there no scientific evidence that we need to drink [8 glasses a water per day], but the recommendation could be harmful, both in precipitating potentially dangerous hyponatremia and exposure to pollutants and also in making many people feel guilty for not drinking enough.” To make sure that our body stays well hydrated and osmotically balanced, health experts have routinely recommended for the average person to drink eight cups of plain water per day. However, this well-meaning advice is sorely inaccurate, as it does not take into account the varied factors of climate, genetics, and fitness level. Interestingly, the actual recommendation for the average man and women is as follows: “104 oz. for men, 72 oz. for women, 80 oz. for pregnant women.” Since eight glasses is equivalent to 64 ounces, the average is way more than what we’ve been informed. Thus, we should be aware that meeting this requirement can be met by knowing that water comes in many forms, and that we may be reaching that hydration goal through those means anyhow: foods, beverages, and coffee.
The best way to ensure employees are drinking more than 8 cups of water is to install water coolers at the most accessible and convenient locations in your office. HR can write hydration reminders on bulletin boards and post-it notes on employee laptops, and even designate as a fitness tracker to implement as a wellness program challenge—as long as employees don’t over hydrate.
2. The Coffee is Dehydrating Myth
Mornings at the office can be a drag; we often find ourselves venturing to the coffee machine out of second nature to perk ourselves up. A common belief of drinking coffee is that it will dehydrate you—coffee is notoriously perceived as a non-water drink due to its diuretic property—but studies have shown that drinking coffee can actually count towards your daily water intake. For instance, “A recent UK study of regular male coffee drinkers found no difference in hydration levels between those who drank four 200ml cups of coffee a day and those who drank the same amount of water. Researchers measured the men's urine output over a 24-hour period and other hydration markers in their blood, and concluded moderate coffee intake provides similar hydrating qualities to water.”
Coffee is the ultimate go-to morning beverage at the home, and especially at the office. We know caffeine wakes us and stabilizes us, and that too much can make us feel jittery and anxious. In addition, we now know that drinking coffee can ward off heart disease and mental deterioration, but do employees know that drinking coffee can still be hydrating? Employees can maximize on their caffeine benefits by calculating their caffeine tolerance and staying below the average 4 cups of coffee per day. With moderation, their body stays in healthy homeostasis and the diuretic effect will cease to dehydrate them.
3. Hydration in the Form of Food
Water-dense foods, such as vegetables and fruits, and even yogurt, will help employees reach an optimal hydration goal. Employees can successfully dove-tail their nutritional intake from food with the hydration intake of its water. “Staying hydrated goes beyond just the water you drink. Foods make up around 20 percent of your total fluid requirements each day. Along with drinking your 9 to 13 daily cups of water, try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables.”
With prime sources of watery veggies and fruits in celery, watermelon, spinach, and green peppers, employees can be more aware of the water sources they consume, and see if it matches the above recommended water intake. Moreover, instead of solely binging on water after water for proper hydration—and having to face the inevitable bathroom breaks at ten-minute intervals—you can feel hydrated without the heavy bladder. This should be incentive enough to choose fresh and watery fruit as a hydrating lunch snack.
4. Mindful Drinking: Pleasure Versus Thirst
We drink to live and live to drink. Choosing colorful beverages over plain water is usually a more palatable approach to staying hydrated. To many, adding flavor brings more enjoyment from its improved taste. “We generally consume fluids not to quench our thirst, but as components of everyday foods (e.g. soup, milk), as beverages used as mild stimulants (tea, coffee) and for pure pleasure.” Similar to food, we may absentmindedly refill on our favorite drinks, but unless they are sugary sodas, that is not necessarily a bad thing. And, yes, drinking water can also quell mindless drinking and eating, as the act becomes more of a distraction tool.
Be mindful in that all drinks count as water, in case we forget to refill our water bottles. Of course, plain drinking water is the most satiating form of hydration, and once you become more mindful of what you drink, you’ll more likely to reach for the classic cup of H2O.
5. Hydrating With Plain Water is the Best Satiation and the Urine Test
Using common sense and drinking plain water with no additives will leave you healthily satiated. Although certainly made with water, sugar-filled soft drinks and the like should be avoided altogether—sugar and artificial carbonation is not the best option for your bodily health or the health of your teeth over time! If you simply cannot stomach plain water, try incorporating fruits to your water, as mentioned above.
To optimize employee engagement and a wellness culture that fosters a healthy sense of humor, remind employees to use the urine test. The coloration of your urine is usually a direct indicator of your water consumption. You’ll know you’re on the right track for healthy water consumption if your urine color is a pale yellow; a clear color may indicate over-hydration, so make sure your urine has some yellow. On the other hand, a deep amber-yellow colored urine usually indicates that you’re under-hydrated and it’s time to grab yourself a cup of water.
6. When to Drink More Water
During vigorous exercise
When consuming alcoholic beverages
When visiting the snow (where air moisture is trapped in the ice)
When at higher altitudes due to less humidity and thereby loss of moisture
Simply, whenever you’re thirsty—keep a water bottle handy and the urine test is always a sure-fire way to track proper hydration! Plus, plain water simply guarantees that you will satiate your thirst the healthy way.
Keeping the above tips in mind, rest assured that as long as employees have access to clean drinking water and water-dense foods, employees can stay staying positively hydrated throughout the day.
Popkin, Barry M., et al. “Water, Hydration and Health.” Nutrition reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/.
Marcin, Ashley. “How Much Water You Need to Drink.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 19 Apr. 2017, www.healthline.com/health/how-much-water-should-I-drink#recommendations2.
Vynckt, Virginia Van. “Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 11 Sept. 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/435265-why-do-you-need-to-drink-a-lot-of-water-at-a-high-altitude/.
Renn, Lisa. "Does Coffee Make You Dehydrated?" ABC Health & Wellbeing, Health Myths, 27 Feb. 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2014/02/27/3951831.htm.