Summer is in full swing: the sun is out, the beach weather is here, and you are spending as much time as possible outside. The warmer temps and higher humidity mean you and your family need to pay close attention to one important aspect of your health: your hydration.
With the hot weather and outdoor activities comes increased water loss through sweating and evaporation, as your body works to stay cool. Your body is about 60 percent water by weight so being well-hydrated is essential for good health. Consuming adequate water is necessary for your body to function properly. Water helps regulate body temperature, flush out waste, lubricate joints, optimize blood pressure and aids in digestion.
What if you don’t get enough water?
Dehydration can occur when you don’t consume enough water to replace the fluids lost. Symptoms of dehydration can range from headache, dry mouth, mild constipation and difficulty concentrating, to more serious life threatening illnesses such as heat stroke and cardiovascular impairments.
Thirst is not the best indicator that you need to drink. Once you feel thirsty, you are most likely already dehydrated. For most people, urine color and volume are typically good indicators of hydration status. If your urine is a pale yellow color and clear it is a good sign you are drinking adequately. If your urine is dark-colored and cloudy or you are urinating small volumes infrequently, then you are likely dehydrated and need to drink more. It is important to note that aging can impair the body’s natural thirst mechanisms, making it much easier for the elderly to become dehydrated--especially in the hot summer months.
How much water do you need daily?
The amount of water a person needs depends on their weight, age, activity level, climatic conditions, level of physical activity and can vary greatly from one person to another. A useful tool to figure out a general amount of how much fluid you need is to divide your weight in pounds by two and drink at least that number in ounces. For example, a 130-pound person would need approximately 65 ounces of water per day (135÷2 =65) which is equivalent to about eight 8-ounce cups. Athletes or individuals engaging in strenuous exercise can get a more precise fluid requirement by weighing themselves immediately before and after exercise: Drink 3 cups of fluid for every pound lost to maintain good hydration.
What are some ways to make sure you are drinking enough?
Drinking water is best, but consider all fluids, including tea, coffee, juices, milk, and soups (excluding alcohol which is extremely dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee (in moderation) does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect. Sticking with water will help you skip the unnecessary sugars and additives in other drinks and give your body what it is truly craving. Invest in a reusable water bottle to help you track your water intake each day. Consider making a hydrating schedule–drinking a predetermined number of ounces throughout the day can keep you on track for your fluid intake goal.
Some people also find it helpful to drink a majority of their fluids in the earlier part of the day so they are not having to get up to go to the bathroom at night. Remember to eat fresh fruits and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water to keep your body healthy. Try infusing water with fresh fruit like lemons, berries, or cucumbers which can make it more refreshing and more likely for you to drink without adding artificial sweeteners or preservatives. And don't forget to drink water before, during, and after a workout.
Water is essential for life and staying hydrated keeps your body functioning at its best, but now that summer is upon us it is more important than ever before that you drink up!
-- Laura Quinn RDN, CDN Sodexo Dietitian at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital
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