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Tips for Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat

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In recent years, many areas around the globe, have been experiencing extreme temperatures during the summer months. Sadly, during this time, lives lost due to heatstroke are addressed, repeatedly, in news stories.

Staying hydrated

The most essential nutrient: water

Nutrients don't only come in the form of food; water is the most important, and often most forgotten, nutrient. You can last for some time without food, but only days without water. Your lean body mass contains about 70 percent to 75 percent water, with fat-containing much less: about 10 percent to 40 percent water. Because of increased muscle mass, men's and athletes' bodies contain more water than bodies with proportionately lower muscle and higher fat, such as non-athletic women, people who are overweight, and people who are older. (

What is Water? Water is:

– The solvent for important biochemical reactions, supplying nutrients and removing waste.

– Essential for maintaining blood circulation throughout your body.

– The maintainer of body temperature. As you exercise, your metabolism and your internal body temperature increase.

Your body's cooling mechanism works similarly to that of a car radiator. A car radiator works by passing coolant (or in the case of your body, passing water) through thin metal fins ( or, your bloodstream) to protect the engine (your internal organs) from overheating and from incurring serious damage. The metal fins (your blood) allows the heat to flow to the air outside the car; or, as it pertains to the human body, the heat travels through the bloodstream to the skin, causing you to sweat. The sweat then evaporates, allowing your body to cool off to maintain a safe body temperature that is needed for optimal functioning and health.

An individual's "daily water intake must be balanced with losses to maintain total body water. Losing body water can adversely affect your functioning and health. Once you start feeling thirsty, you've probably lost about 1 percent of your body water and are dehydrated. With a 2 percent water loss, you could experience serious fatigue and cardiovascular impairments. It's important to note that individual fluid needs differ depending on your sweat rate, the environmental temperature, your clothing, humidity, and other factors."

The average person has 2.6 million sweat glands. When we sweat, we also lose water and electrolytes (i.e., “salts” such as sodium, chloride, potassium). Drinking enough water and having enough electrolytes is necessary for our bodies to function properly. This is why it is so important to stay hydrated.

Hydration tips

As summer temperatures hit, here are a number of important tips.

– Drink enough water to prevent thirst. Drink before you are thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty; you have probably already lost two or more cups of your total body water composition. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Carry a bottle of water with you daily. Keep a bottle of water on your desk and refill at the office water cooler regularly.

– Monitor fluid loss by checking the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow and not dark yellow, too smelly or cloudy.

– For short-duration (less than 60 minutes), low-to-moderate-intensity activity, water is a good choice to drink before, during, and after exercise.

– Avoid alcohol the day before or the day of a long exercise bout, and avoid exercising with a hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic and will cause you to lose water through increased urination.

– Consider all fluids, including tea, coffee, juices, milk, and soups (though excluding alcohol, which is extremely dehydrating). Although coffee and tea do have a diuretic effect, they do provide a significant amount of fluid and any effect of caffeine on urine loss is minor (especially for habitual caffeine users), according to the most recent report by the National Research Council's Food and Nutrition Board.

– Eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables per day for optimum health, as they all contain various levels of water and the all-important nutrient potassium.

– You can also replace fluid and sodium losses with watery foods that contain salt and potassium, such as soup and vegetable juices.

– For long hikes, when you'll need food, dried fruit, and nut mixtures contain high amounts of potassium, sodium, protein, carbs, and calories — though continue to drink plenty of water.

Hydration Prior to Exercise Begin all workouts well hydrated. Drink 450-650 ml of water or sports drink 1 to 3 hours before exercise. Consuming an additional 200-300 ml 10-20 minutes prior to the training session is also a good practice. For those who experience high sodium losses, eat salty foods in a pre-exercise meal.

Hydration During Exercise

Drink 200-350 ml every 15-20 minutes. If possible, given your sporting activity, take regular 'sips' throughout the activity. For longer training sessions (or in hot weather) consider using a sports drink as part of your hydration regimen (prior to, during, and following activity). The sodium and potassium content in most sports drinks will permit you to maintain a proper electrolyte balance. or add an appropriate amount of salt to sports drinks consumed during exercise. Orange juice is high in potassium. Dilute juices, such as V-8 or orange juice, 50/50 with water so that the drinks are 6 percent carbohydrate solutions (the same as sports drinks), which will empty from your stomach quicker than 100 percent juice (juices are naturally 12 percent solutions), allowing the electrolytes and water to quickly reach your heart and organs.

– To determine your individualized need for fluid replacement: During heavy exercise, weigh yourself immediately before and after exercise. If you see an immediate loss of weight, you've lost valuable water. Drink 3 cups of fluid for every pound lost; use this figure to determine the amount of water (or sports drink) you'll need to drink before and during your next exercise session to prevent weight/water loss in the future.

Hydration Following Activity

Drink 500-1000ml within 1 hour, post-exercise. You should aim to 'push' fluid intake even if you don't feel thirsty. Given that you will eliminate some fluid through urination, you’ll want to drink more than what you've lost. Following strenuous exercise, you need more protein to build muscle, carbohydrates to refuel muscle, electrolytes to replenish what's lost in sweat, and fluids to help rehydrate the body. Low-fat chocolate milk is a perfect, natural replacement that fills those requirements.

How can I tell when I'm dehydrated?

As mentioned in a bullet point above, one of the easiest ways to tell whether you are adequately hydrated is by checking the color of your urine. In general, light-colored urine is an indication of adequate hydration. If you are experiencing infrequent urination and the color of the urine is dark yellow, these are signs of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration are: thirst, headache, constipation, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, irritability, cramps, depression, weight, gain, water retention, skin blemishes, vomiting or nausea, and bladder infections.


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