Expert tips on staying hydrated this summer.
The first day of summer has come and gone. Hot weather is upon us. Likely, much of your athletic activity has moved outdoors. There, you can take advantage of the fresh air and sunshine. However, there is one matter of concern in the summer heat – staying hydrated.
Why is hydration important? Up to 60 percent of the human body consists of water. When you lose just 2 percent of your total water weight, symptoms of dehydration can develop. Dehydration is known to cause headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and changes in mood. Dark or infrequent urination can also indicate dehydration.
Extreme dehydration – loss of 10 to 15 percent water volume – can cause debilitating or even deadly symptoms, including fever, confusion, seizes, and coma. Hospitalization may be required. These symptoms can be avoided, however, if you practice good hydration habits.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
Researchers are still unsure what the “optimum” amount of hydration is. For example, in 2004, the U.S. Institute of Medicine reported that adults should consume 11 to 16 cups of fluids daily. Yet, in 2010, researchers in Europe gave a more conservative estimate of 8 to 11 cups daily.
How much water and other fluids should you drink? Much depends on your activity levels, and environments. Athletes, for example, may lose as much as 6 liters (about 24 cups) of water per day through sweat. Hot weather also increases water losses 4 Tips for Staying Hydrated
1) Drink before you’re thirsty. Some researchers have stated that before you feel a pang of thirst, you may already be dehydrated. This is especially true in older individuals, as the body’s thirst mechanisms can become impaired with age. Make it a habit to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning after waking. You can also keep a bottle of water handy throughout the day; you may sip on it without even thinking about it! Making a goal of emptying a 1 liter water bottle each day can serve as a visual reminder to drink more fluids.
- Eat moisture-rich foods. On average, we get about 20 percent of our daily fluids from the foods we eat. This is especially true when we consume juicy fruits such as watermelon, or fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. As an added bonus, our bodies find it easier to assimilate nutrients that are already dissolved in the juices of such foods.
- Hydrate ahead of time. If you know that you will be performing heavy exercise, or that you’ll be without fluids for some time, hydrate in advance. Make it a point take in extra fluids before you exercise. WebMD recommends drinking two cups of water two hours before outdoor or heavy activity, and four to six ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during the activity. If you’d really like to ensure hydration, you can weigh yourself before and after you exercise. For every pound of water weight you lose during your workout, consume 20 ounces of fluid.
- Use sports drinks in moderation. When you exercise or are out in the heat, your body produces sweat to cool you and maintain a healthy temperature. With that sweat, your body loses a number of nutrients, most notably the electrolytes sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Sports drinks, sodas, and juices can help replenish these vital nutrients, as well as boost your energy with carbohydrates.
However, if you are interested in losing weight or are diabetic, remember that these drinks are also high in sugar. Use them sparingly; after one serving of sports drink, fresh squeezed fruit juice, or water will likely be a better option.
Hydration and Alcohol
You’ve worked hard at the office and at the gym; now you’d like to relax with a nice drink. Not all beverages increase hydration – alcohol can actually dehydrate your body. How?
Alcohol consumption reduces levels of an anti-diuretic hormone that allows the body to reabsorb water. You can combat this dehydration by drinking a glass of water before and after each alcoholic beverage.
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