HYDRATION NEEDS FOR COMBATTING THE SULTRY DAYS OF SUMMER.
Summer is here, and time to enjoy the sunshine and outdoor activities we’ve been waiting for. Biking, swimming, hiking, and water sports are on our to-do list. But with summertime comes heat, humidity, poor air quality, and the risk of dehydration. The way to stay safe this summer is to make sure you are drinking enough. Follow these hydration tips for combatting summertime heat.
WHAT IS DEHYDRATION?
Our body needs enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. Dehydration occurs when there is a fluid deficit, In other words, more fluids have been used or lost than taken in.
Dehydration is an unhealthy condition. Our body needs water to regulate temperature, blood pressure, and kidney function.
Prolonged or chronic dehydration can increase the risk of kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and electrolyte imbalance. In hot weather, dehydration is a leading cause of heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Dehydration is caused by not replenishing the fluids that we lose naturally. For example, those fluids we lose through our skin when we sweat, through our breath when we breathe, and the fluids we lose through our kidneys when we urinate.
In addition, we are at risk for losing more fluids than we take in, when we are ill, due to fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Furthermore, hot or humid weather increases the amount we sweat and therefore the volume of fluids we lose.
These lost fluids must be replenished to stay healthy and survive. Without enough water, our body can’t function.
SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION
When we experience thirst, our body is telling us we need more fluids. Other signs of dehydration include:
-Dry mouth or lips
-Less frequent urination or dark colored urine
HOW MUCH FLUID DO I NEED?
Getting enough water is essential for keeping all our bodily functions working correctly. But how much is enough or too much? This depends on factors such as your size and weight, the temperature of your environment, and your level of activity.
The old “one size fits all” of eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day has changed. One rule of thumb is 1/2 to 1 ounce of water for each pound that you weigh. For example, a 150 lb person would need 75 to 150 ounces per day. This includes water or fluids obtained from food.
Certain health conditions and medications also impact our fluid needs. For example, those with kidney and heart disease may require limited fluids. Conversely, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers require additional fluids. Check with your health professional if unsure.
DOES IT HAVE TO BE WATER?
Water is by far the best fluid for keeping us well hydrated. Since our bodies are 60% water it is best to naturally replace what is lost. Water contains no added sugars, or calories and has no dehydrating or diuretic effects. Moreover, it is 100% usable by cells for supplying nutrients throughout the body, removing waste, maintaining blood pressure, and protecting vital organs.
WHAT ABOUT SPORTS DRINKS FOR HYDRATION?
Sports drinks are largely water, however, they also contain carbohydrates for energy and an assortment of electrolytes. When activity is strenuous or continues for a lengthy period of time, sports drinks can help replenish these compounds. For example, sports drinks are beneficial during a long run or sporting event lasting more than one hour. However, for short-duration exercise, or the typical 30-minute workout, drinking plain water is adequate.
Energy drinks are different from sports drinks. They are beverages intended to increase alertness, and concentration, and often have a high sugar and caffeine content. Large amounts of caffeine may raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and work against hydration. Alternatively, grab a snack containing protein and carbs, such as an apple with peanut butter, and opt for water instead.
Vitamin enhanced waters have become popular. They contain added vitamins and minerals and are sold as “healthy” alternatives to water, however, many are high in sugar. Some contain up to 30 grams of added sugar per bottle. “Zero” vitamin waters do not have added sugar, but also have fewer vitamins and minerals.
Like sports drinks, vitamin waters contain electrolytes and may be beneficial for hydrating during lengthy or strenuous exercise. However, on an everyday basis, drinking vitamin water will provide unnecessary calories and promote obesity. It’s best to opt for water and get your vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet.
GIVE THESE HYDRATION TIPS A TRY:
-Keep a water bottle on your desk or near your computer to sip on throughout the day. Or take a swig or two at each commercial break when watching tv. Drinking smaller amounts at a time is easier and healthier than a large amount at once.
-Infuse your water with cut up berries or other fruits to add flavor and nutrients.
-Swap out one soda or cup of coffee for a glass of water. Cola and coffee have caffeine which has dehydrating properties.
-Make sure to drink before, during and after you exercise. Carry a water bottle with you and take breaks.
-Wear a hat and loose clothing when outside on a hot day. This helps to regulate your body temperature and prevent getting overheated.
-Eat foods with a high water content. All fruits and vegetables contain some water. In particular, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, celery, and spinach contain about 90% water.
-Blend fruits into smoothies or freeze unsweetened juices into ice pops to keep cool on a hot day.
-Avoid or limit alcohol which can be dehydrating and remove fluids from your tissues.
THE BOTTOM LINE ON HYDRATION…
Staying hydrated, or taking in enough fluids, is critical for maintaining your health, particularly during hot summer months.
Choose water and avoid high sugar and caffeinated beverages that work against hydration. Remember to include fruits and vegetables with a high water content such as watermelon, cucumbers, and celery.
Listen to your body and be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dehydration. Plan for additional fluids when exercising and take breaks to avoid getting overheated.
So go ahead and enjoy outdoor fun, but make sure to drink enough and stay hydrated. Make it a priority, and keep you and your family healthy and safe this summer season!
If you would like more information on hydration, our registered dietitians are available to discuss your needs and help individualize a plan for you. Call for an appointment today, 240-449-3094