Summer is the perfect time to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and get active! Staying hydrated during fun activities and throughout the day is vital for optimal health. This is because water is an essential nutrient that is responsible for controlling body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, flushing the body of toxins, and controlling metabolism. The body is 50-65% water, and even just 2% loss can lead to very serious health concerns.
Staying hydrated can be especially tricky with rising temperatures that can lead to additional losses, but don’t sweat it! Here are some tips to stay hydrated and healthy this summer:
1. Know your fluid goals! According to the Institute of Medicine, the average adult male requires 3.7 liters while the average adult female requires 2.7 liters. This includes content from both foods and liquids. Shoot for 9-12 cups a day! Don’t worry about overdoing it; there is no upper limit for the average healthy individual.
2. It’s all about variety! Keep it interesting by drinking several different fluids throughout the day. Stick to calorie-free options such as flavored water, unsweet tea, and coffee when possible. In addition, you can infuse your water with cucumber, lemon, or strawberries! Don’t count alcohol as this can actually dehydrate you!
2. Eat your water too! Include high moisture foods such as soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, popsicles, and yogurt in your diet. These foods can contribute to about 20% of average daily water intake.
3. Listen to your body! If you are thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. Make sure your urine color stays pale and clear and that you are going every two to four hours during the day. In addition, watch for signs of dehydration such as cramping, head ache, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and dry cough.
5. Take it to-go! Invest in a reusable water bottle to keep your fluids with you on-the-go! This is also a great way to measure how much fluid you are taking in. Pick a bottle that is easy to carry with you and refill as needed.
6. Remind yourself! Set “water alarms” on your phone, or put post-its throughout your home and car to remind yourself it’s time to rehydrate.
7. Are you an athlete? Athletes require additional fluid before, during, and after exercise, especially in the summer heat. Even very small losses can have a big effect on performance. Remember to drink plenty of fluid before your workout; this could mean the night before if you are an early morning starter. Weigh yourself before and after to give yourself an idea on how much you should replace from sweat losses. Save sports drinks for over 60 minute sessions, and shoot for a sports drink with 6-8% carbohydrate content.
It’s time to get out and soak in the sun! Keep these tips in mind to stay healthy and hydrated all summer long!
Jillian Butt, RD, LD, lives and works in Charleston, SC as a Sodexo Registered Dietitian. She is currently the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Trident Medical Center.