Taking in enough fluids seems simple, right? Just drink more water. That will help, sure, but there are probably a few hydration mistakes you’re making—without even realizing it. Fix these six missteps to make sure you’re getting the H2O you need:
Mistake #1: Drinking Water During Your Workout, But Not Before
Even if you sip on something regularly while you’re at the gym, you may be prone to headaches if you haven’t hydrated ahead of time, too. You should aim to drink at least eight ounces of water about half an hour before you exercise, says New York City-based trainer Larysa DiDio, founder of PFX Fitness.
Mistake #2: Insisting on Eight Glasses a Day
It’s time to kick this adage to the curb: The Institute of Medicine actually recommends 11.4 cups per day, although hydration needs vary from person to person. The exact amount of H2O you need is dependent on your size and weight. And since you can also get water from foods like fruits and veggies (an apple, for instance, can provide an entire cup of water), you may not need to guzzle as much if you’re eating water-rich meals and snacks. In general, though, if you take your your weight and divide it by two, that should give you roughly the number of ounces of water you need in a day, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet.
Mistake #3: Avoiding Drinks Like Coffee and Tea
It’s a commonly held belief that coffee and tea are dehydrating because of their caffeine content—but that’s a myth, says New York City-based nutritionist Lisa Cashman, M.S., R.D. “While the caffeine in coffee and tea can be a diuretic—which causes fluid loss—the fluid in them typically makes up for it.” So your daily Starbucks habit is still better than sipping on nothing.
Mistake #4: Hydrating Too Infrequently
If you feel thirsty, then yes, you should probably drink water. Same goes for when you’re exercising or it’s hot outside. But—contrary to common belief—these aren’t the only times when you need to rehydrate, says Gans. “You also need to hydrate while you’re sitting at your desk at work, not just at the gym,” she says. “I even have a sticky note on my computer that says, ‘Drink water.'” Gans suggests sipping consistently throughout the day. If you don’t, you could set yourself up for conditions like kidney stones and UTIs. Eek!
Mistake #5: Confusing the Need for Water with the Need for Food
Drink before you eat to make sure your hunger pangs are actually, well, hunger pangs. Many people confuse the need for H20 with the need for food, says Gans. She recommends eating meals and snacks as you normally would—but also getting into the habit of drinking plenty of water with them. She also suggests setting a bottle of water on your nightstand. “First thing in the morning, drink it,” says Gans. “If it’s the first thing you see, you can set yourself up with hydration for the rest of the day.”