Spring is here! The weather is heating up! And even though many of us have been asked to stay at home, we still can get out, soak up some sun, or take an invigorating run around the neighborhood.
But with higher temperatures and more activity comes the risk of dehydration. Right now, we need to do everything we can to support our bodies, so let’s talk about hydration!
Why Do We Need to Think About Hydration?
The adult body is made up of an average of 50-60% water. Enough said. But if you’d like a little more insight, let’s look at what drinking water does for our bodies.
The top three reasons we need to drink water are that it helps to:
- Remove waste through urine.
- Control heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure
- Maintain a healthy metabolism
But there are a whole lot of other reasons to stay hydrated too.
Stay Hydrated Because Water Helps
- Create saliva
- Efficiently filter our waste through urination
- Maximize physical performance
- Excrete waste through perspiration
- Fight off illness
- Boost energy
- Improve mood
- Keep skin bright
- Improve blood oxygen circulation
- Nutrient absorption
- Healthy stools and avoid constipation
- Cognitive function
- Weight loss
Stay Hydrated Because Water Protects Your
- Spinal cord
The body relies so heavily on fluids that without the proper amount, the body will shut down. When severely dehydrated, a person may experience:
- Altered behavior
- Severe anxiety
- A feeling of faintness that is not relieved by lying down
- The inability to stay awake
- Rapid breathing
- The failure to stand or walk
- A weak but rapid pulse
- Loss of consciousness
How Much Water Do We Need to Drink?
You’ve probably heard that eight glasses of water a day is the recommended amount of water to drink. But the amount of fluids that a person needs to take in depends on the person.
For example, people who exercise lose a lot more water through sweat and breathing than those who are sedentary, so their needs are higher.
Fluid intake is not reliant on water alone. There is plenty of water in other beverages, and even in the foods, we eat.
About 80 percent of our water intake comes from fluids, while the other 20 percent comes from food. Most of us consume an adequate amount of fluids by drinking a beverage with each meal plus a couple of extra beverages throughout the day.
Athletes, however, need to pay special attention to their fluid intake. Waiting to drink fluids until they feel thirsty can be detrimental because exercise blunts the thirst mechanism.
So the urge to drink means the body is already dehydrated. People who run or bike, need to hydrate frequently because even if you don’t feel thirsty, you may be in desperate need of fluids.
A quick tip: You are drinking enough fluids if you urinate every two to four hours. Light-colored urine means you are drinking plenty. Dark-colored urine means you need to drink more.
Sometimes We Need to Drink More Fluid
There are times when the average Joe or Jolene will need to be more aware of how much fluids they are drinking. Here are five examples of times when you may need to increase your intake of fluids.
- Any time you sweat. Sweat is made up of water. Any time you break a sweat, your body loses vital fluids that need to be replaced.
- Anytime you are up in the mountains. If you head up to a higher altitude, your body has to work harder to breathe, which causes you to lose water through respiration.
- If you are physically unwell, particularly if you have a fever, are vomiting, or have diarrhea. All three of these conditions cause your body to lose fluids faster than usual.
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, during these times, your body is providing hydration for both you and your baby.
- Additional health conditions may require specialized fluid monitoring. Your doctor will guide you if this is the case.
Need Some New Ideas on Hydration?
Some people just don’t like drinking water. No problem. There are plenty of other ways to focus on hydration in your diet without having to gulp it down.
Oatmeal is very hydrating because the oats expand and absorb the liquid they’re being prepared in. If you don’t want to eat hot oatmeal, overnight oats eaten cold will provide the same amount of hydration.
Replace dry, carb-heavy staples like pasta with alternatives like zucchini noodles, which contain about 95 percent water.
Have a Smoothie
Packed with fresh fruit, smoothies are a perfect way to stay hydrated.
Add a Salad
Lettuce greens are made up of 94 percent water! Celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, and carrots are also excellent hydrators and are packed with vitamins and minerals.
Spoon up some soup. Broth-based soups are perfect for a hydration boost. Gazpacho is served cold, so you can even enjoy soup in the summer.
Make healthy homemade popsicles by blending fruit up in the blender and then freezing them in ice cube trays or popsicle molds.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much?
Yes, there is such a thing as drinking too much water. Although much rarer than dehydration problems, hyponatremia (low sodium levels) can occur if you take in too many fluids.
This dangerous condition occurs most often in prolonged endurance athletes who drink too much water, diluting the body’s sodium levels.
Replace the Amount of Weight You Lose
If you are an athlete who is concerned about taking in too much fluid, weigh yourself before and after exercise. You only need to drink enough fluid to replace the amount of weight you lose.
If you notice that you are gaining weight during a workout, then you’re drinking too much fluid. If you lose weight, you need to drink more.
Grab a Glass of Water
Right now, we each must take responsibility for our health and do everything we can to support our bodies, immune systems, and stay hydrated.
Even something as simple as staying well hydrated can do wonders for maintaining optimal health. So grab a glass of water or a piece of fruit, get out in the sun, and move that body!