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How to Stay Hydrated and Healthy This Summer

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How to Stay Hydrated and Healthy This Summer

Every cell in the human body requires water to function properly. When we don’t drink enough water, the cells begin to lose their function. Though hydration is important all year, it’s particularly important in hotter months because we are sweating and need to replenish lost water.

Meridan Zerner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Cooper Clinic explains the importance of hydration and how to stay hydrated this summer.

Why is hydration important?

Even a slight drop in hydration (one to two percent level of dehydration) affects performance and energy. Dehydration can affect your workout performance, on the job performance and your energy level throughout the day. When you begin to become dehydrated, you will feel more fatigued and may even feel sick. This is often one of the first signs of heat illness. 

Hydration tips:

  • Is water my only option? It is recommended that women get 11 cups of fluid per day and men get 15 cups of fluid per day. These do not have to be solely water. When we need to rehydrate, water is our best choice. There are no calories in water, and it’s the one fluid the body really needs. However, water isn’t the only option when it comes to staying hydrated.

    Fruits and vegetables have high water content. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will help your body maintain proper hydration. In addition, other fluids such as decaf iced tea and coffee also contain water. Although they are not as effective as water, you can improve your hydration with a variety of foods and fluids.
    • Note: Many people assume iced tea and coffee actually dehydrate the body as they act as a diuretic. While this is true, the diuretic response of tea and coffee does not outweigh the hydrating properties of these fluids.
  • Do I need to drink sports drinks? Whether or not you need to rehydrate with a sports drink is dependent on the duration of activity and activity level. Your body can adequately and appropriately rehydrate with water alone following any activity that is less than 90 minutes long. If you are not working out or exercising (yard work, running, gym workout) for at least 90 minutes at a time, you do not need the extra calories or electrolytes contained in sports drinks. If you continue to exercise, or being outdoors where you are sweating, you may need to add electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. Electrolytes can be found in sports drinks, food or supplements. For a healthy electrolyte snack, eat a bag of pretzels and an orange.
  • How much water do I need before and during exercise? It is recommended that you consume six to eight ounces of water before exercising and four to six ounces every 20 minutes during exercise.
  • Don’t cram hydration. Drink throughout the day instead. Our bodies aren’t designed to load on hydration well. You should consistently infuse your body with water and fluid throughout the day. If you load on hydration, your body is overloaded and will speed elimination, which could leave you more dehydrated than when you started. Consistent hydration supports better energy, thirst response, etc.
  • Control alcohol. Alcohol in any form (beer, wine, liquor) is dehydrating. Consider alternating alcoholic drinks with a glass of water.

Warning signs of dehydration

It’s important to remember not to wait until you are thirsty to drink water. The thirst response is a signal that your body needs water. For optimum hydration, consume water throughout the day, even when you are not thirsty. Mild to moderate dehydration can be treated by drinking more fluids.

If you think you may be dehydrated, here are some signs and symptoms to look for:

Signs of mild to moderate dehydration:

  • Dry mouth, thirst
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Decreased urine output
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheaded
  • Dry skin

Signs of severe dehydration (may result in a medical emergency):

  • Extreme thirst, very dry mouth
  • Extreme sleepiness, irritability and confusion
  • Lack of sweating
  • Inability to urinate
  • Shriveled, dry skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Unconsciousness or delirium (in extreme cases)

Don’t let the triple-digit temperatures get the best of you this summer. Water is the key to a fun summer! Drink it all day long to stay hydrated, then splash and play at the pool to keep cool.