Photo: Ted Cavanaugh
In fact, adding gel water to plain water during exercise or anytime your body is parched may be the best way to hydrate, says Stacy Sims, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and a nutrition scientist at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and the author of Roar. “Plain water has a low osmolality—a measure of the concentration of particles like glucose and sodium it contains—which means it doesn’t get into the body effectively through the small intestines, where 95 percent of water absorption takes place,” explains Sims. Plant and other sources of water, on the other hand, often contain some glucose or sodium, so your body can easily soak them up.
Gel water also gives you “helper nutrients,” says Howard Murad, M.D., the author of The Water Secret and the founder of Murad Skincare. “When you eat a cucumber, you’re getting not just water but also phytonutrients and roughage. In gel form, the water is released more gradually into your body, plus you get the other benefits of those nutrients.” Here are three easy ways to increase your intake of this super-hydrator—boosting your health and energy while you drink.
Drink a Green Smoothie Every Day
Start your mornings with a healthy shake made with greens, chia seeds, lemon, berries, cucumber, an apple or a pear, and a little ginger, says Dr. Cohen. “Chia soaked in water is extremely high in gel water and is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help move water into the cells,” she says. Cucumbers and pears are also loaded with gel water, plus fibrous tissue, which helps your body absorb the water.
Add a Pinch of Salt
Stir 1/16 teaspoon of table salt into every eight ounces of regular water you drink. This boosts the osmolality just enough to make your small intestines absorb it, says Sims. Sprinkle salt on your salad or fruit plate too. “The best thing for you on a hot summer day is some lightly salted cold melon or tomato,” she says. “These foods have a high water content and a bit of glucose. That plus the salt will help your body take in the fluid.”
Exercise a Little More
It sounds counterintuitive, but the right moves can actually optimize your hydration levels, says Gina Bria, the head of the Hydration Foundation and the coauthor of Quench. Research has shown that the fascia, the thin sheath of fibrous tissue around our muscles and organs, transports water molecules throughout the body, and certain activities help that process along. “Twisting movements are especially good for hydration,” says Bria. Spend a few minutes doing yoga or some stretching three or four times a day to keep the water flowing.
Strength-building exercises may also help your body hydrate. “Muscle is about 70 percent water,” says Dr. Murad. Bulking up lets your body hold on to more water to prevent dehydration.
Eat Your Water
These fruits and vegetables are at least 70 percent water, and many of them also contain nutrients, like fiber and glucose, that help absorb that water for better hydration.
- Squash (cooked)
- Broccoli (cooked)
- Potatoes (baked)