Maybe you are but just don't realize it? Maybe you're actually thirsty when you think you're hungry?
Your body is highly adaptable to different levels of hydration. It's not so hard to go a few to several hours without a drop of fluid. So why bother making sure you're drinking enough? And how do you know that you are or are not drinking enough?
First, here are some of the benefits, according to the National Institutes of Health:
Improved thermoregulation (ability to normalize body temperature)
Improved capacity and recovery for physical performance
Improved cognitive (mental and central nervous system) function
Improved fat and protein metabolism and blood sugar level stabilization
Oh, and it's the first nutrient that, when denied for extended periods, will end in your death. So, yeah, it's pretty important.
Given that, here are my favorite beverages, and why:
Tea – It warms me in the winter, cools me (iced) in the summer and provides a wide range of taste experiences for me, while being virtually calorie free. I like a broad variety of teas including green, black (with a little milk), fruit, white, mint and some more exotic teas like Roastaroma and Lapsang Souchong.
Milk – I like milk in lattes, smoothies, cereal, I cook oatmeal in it and, as I mentioned, in black tea. It's also a great source of protein, calcium and vitamin D.
Vegetable Juice – I have some V8 juice every day. The regular V8 is a staple but I also enjoy V8 Healthy Greens and Purple Power. All three are packed with vitamins, minerals and are low in sugar.
If the beverages above don't float your boat, think about drinking carbonated mineral water, adding lemon or keeping a pitcher in the refrigerator with berries or mint leaves and cucumber slices in it to add to the flavor and enjoyment.
Another option is to supplement your water intake with high water content foods. Fruits and veggies are best, but here's a good reference list of foods and their water content, also from the NIH.
If you want to minimize relatively empty calories, skip sugar-laden beverages like soda, alcohol and avoid over-consuming performance drinks and even excessive amounts of fruit juice.
There are better ways to "skin that cat."
Now, as to how to know you're drinking enough? Simply keep an eye on the color of your urine. If it's clear to pale throughout the day, you're good. If it's the amber color of a traffic light right before the light turns red (or darker), no bueno.
Not glamorous, I know, but effective.
Now go have a nice cup of tea.
Dan Taylor, ACE, NASM-CPT, is owner and head trainer at Pleasanton-based Tri Valley Trainer. They offer personal training and small group fitness solutions and an innovative, medically endorsed web-based group healthy eating coaching program.