Put down your energy drink. Set aside your coffee. And -- we beg you -- don't do that shot of pink lemonade-flavored 5-Hour Energy.
If you're really seeking a midday energy boost, reach for a glass of water.
Experts say water -- not caffeine or sugar -- is the best way to maintain your energy level through the day. "When you're not hydrated, the body is not working at an optimal level," said Annette Alfieri, nutritionist and owner of Mind Body Whole in Fairfield. "When you're low on water or dehydrated, you're going to feel lethargic, sluggish and dragging."
Being fully hydrated is essential for our bodies to work well. Water helps fuel our cells by delivering oxygen and nutrients to our organs. It keeps our blood pressure at healthy levels, and keeps our body temperatures cool. It flushes our systems and strengthens our immune system.
Dehydration can cause muscle aches and pains, fatigue and dizziness. It can even confuse the way your body signals hunger and thirst. You may feel like you need a snack to boost your energy, when what you really need is water.
"It's the same mechanism in the brain that tells you you're thirsty and you're hungry," Alfieri said. "Most people are chronically dehydrated. They're walking around (thinking they're) just hungry all the time, but really they're dehydrated." When we feel tired or sluggish, we often attribute that feeling to hunger rather than thirst, and reach for a sugary snack or a caffeinated drink to perk up. But that can cause further dehydration and make the problem worse, Alfieri said.
How much water we should drink in a day is up for debate. We've all heard the eight 8-ounce glasses standard, but Alfieri said some experts believe you can drink half that amount and supplement the other half with fruits and vegetables. The problem with that, she said, is that most people don't eat as many fruits and vegetables as they should. For that reason, she's in the old-school, eight 8-ounce-glasses-a-day camp. "I at least say to my clients to get eight to 10 glasses per day," Alfieri said. "You want to be drinking half your body weight in ounces." So if you weigh 130 pounds, you'd try to drink about 65 ounces of water per day.
Water intake needs to be increased during exercise, said Nicole Barrato, owner and dietician of Nutrigreene in Westport. "Typically, you'll want to drink about a bottle of water per hour," she said, or about 16 to 24 ounces. If you're working out for more than an hour, though, you'll want to make sure you're replenishing your electrolytes with a sports drink. People get in trouble when they start drinking sugary sports drinks when they don't need them, Barrato said. "Gatorade or Powerade and those things are designed for people who are running a marathon or doing an hour-plus of exercise," she said. "That's where I think the mistake comes in."
Barrato said people think Gatorade is hydrating them when really it's just loading them up with sugar.