It's summer. It's hot. It's the perfect time for a drink. Before you belly up to the bar, I should clarify I'm talking about water. It's a fact: We all need water to survive. But how much is enough? Do other beverages count? And what if you don't like drinking water?

The basics: Water keeps us alive. Water regulates our body temperature, facilitates cell nutrition, supports circulation and flushes out toxins. We can go weeks without food. But we can die without water in a matter of days (ideal temperature conditions) or even hours (high temperatures).

Beyond simply keeping us alive, water has many benefits:

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Proper hydration is a real energy-booster. I've helped clients cut out the caffeine they were sure they needed to stay awake all afternoon by increasing their water intake.

Ever have a fuzzy-headed feeling and you just can't concentrate? You probably need a big glass of water. You can be mildly dehydrated even without a trek across the desert. The tip-offs include a headache and an inability to concentrate.

Water keeps everything moving through our GI tract. A toilet's plumbing is an appropriate analogy: We don't expect waste products to disappear down the drain without flushing them with water. Same holds true for our GI tract.

So how much should you drink? There's conflicting information. We've all heard that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Since this isn't backed up by scientific research, it's more of a general recommendation. I've had clients tell me that their fitness trainers suggest they drink at least an ounce of water per pound of body weight. Meaning for a 160-pound person, the daily requirement is 20 (!) 8-ounce glasses of water per day. I don't know about you, but I just don't have that kind of time.

I recommend drinking eight 8-ounce servings a day. It's a good general recommendation that works well for most people. If you're exercising heavily and/or it's a hot day, drink more. If you feel thirsty, drink more (if you're excessively thirsty, see your doctor as that's one of the indications of undiagnosed diabetes).

I also recommend that if you feel hungry, but you've recently eaten, try a glass of water. Sometimes we confuse thirst for hunger.

What Counts as Water?

Many beverages and foods are also good sources of water. Recent studies seem to discount the negative effect of caffeine on hydration, meaning coffee and tea can count towards your water intake (just not a one-to-one replacement). Most fruits and vegetables are 90 percent or more water, giving us another reason to eat our veggies.

And if you're one of those people who just doesn't like water, try these tricks:

Drink sparkling water. Anything without artificial or natural sweeteners counts.

Add a splash of your favorite juice or iced tea.

Garnish with a slice of lemon or lime. Squeeze the fruit first to enjoy the fresh juice.

Use a nice glass. Or a crazy straw. Or a colorful water bottle. Anything to make it more pleasurable.

Sneak a glass after you brush your teeth in the morning.

Add an extra glass of water to your day and soon you'll be feeling the positive effects.

Lisa Corrado makes busy people healthier by combining clinical nutrition with culinary

training. Contact Lisa at 203-972-3447 or Lisa@LisaCorradoNutrition.com. Visit her

website at www.LisaCorradoNutrition.com