Summer may have hit its stride but no matter what the temperature is outside, getting enough to drink is important whether you are relaxing in the sun, traveling or participating in physical activity. Water is important to the body at all times. In warmer months the main way we lose water is through perspiration, which keeps us from overheating. As sweat evaporates, it cools the tissues beneath. Our bodies also lose water on a daily basis through our urine, intestines and lungs. When the water levels in our body become too low, it will affect normal bodily functions and organs including the kidneys and the heart. Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from a headache to heat stroke. Signs of dehydration include: fatigue, loss of appetite, flushed skin, dark colored urine, dry cough, heat intolerance and light- headedness. If you suspect someone is dehydrated seek immediate medical attention.
The best way to beat dehydration is to drink before you are thirsty
Do you know your fluid needs? A basic guide is to start with your weight in pounds and divide by 2. This is the average amount of ounces of water you need per day. A body weight of 150 pounds requires 75 ounces or about 9 cups of water per day. However, if you are physically active, you require even more fluid. Drink at least 16 – 20 ounces of fluid, one to two hours before an outdoor activity and an additional 6 – 12 ounces every 15 minutes you are outside in warm weather. When you finish, have another 2 -3 cups depending on how much you sweat. One way to make sure you are properly hydrated is to check your urine. If it’s clear, pale or straw colored, it’s OK. If it’s darker than that, keep drinking! And remember, just sitting in the sun on a hot or humid day can also cause your body to need more fluids.
Beverages: some hydrate, others dehydrate
For most people, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. If you are planning a low or moderately intensive activity such as walking for an hour or less, water is all you need. Try infusing your water with a slice of orange or cucumber for a fresh burst of flavor. If you will be exercising for longer or sitting out in the sun for the day, you might want to hydrate with a sports drink to replace not only fluids, but electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Pass on the fruit drinks or soda as they may have too many carbohydrates and upset the stomach. Alcoholic drinks and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, teas and colas are not recommended for optimal hydration as they tend to pull water from the body and promote dehydration. Lastly, your food choices can account for approximately 20% of your daily fluid intake. Luckily, many foods that are in season during the summer months such as melon, tomatoes and berries are naturally rich in water, minerals and electrolytes. Remember, staying hydrated will keep your summer activities safer and much more enjoyable.
Barbara J. Leone, MS, RD, LDN