This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
It’s summer, the season for outdoor activities and fun in the sun. But if you’re not drinking enough water, you might find yourself feeling sluggish and cranky after a few hours of play. When we exercise or spend time in hot weather, our bodies can lose fluids quickly, making it extra essential to be mindful of how much fluid we take in.
We need water to function and maintain all healthy bodily functions. Water is vital for digestion, cooling the body down during exercise, regulating core temperature levels, and more. Without sufficient water, your cells don’t work correctly, impacting everything from metabolism to blood volume balance. Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, dry mouth and skin, muscle cramps, and fatigue.
To stay hydrated all summer long, follow these six easy tips.
1. Drink water before you feel thirsty
If things are busy at work, or you are out and about running errands, it can be easy to go hours without drinking water until suddenly you notice how thirsty you are. However, by the time you feel thirsty, you may already be mildly dehydrated. The feeling of thirst is triggered when one to two percent of your body mass is lost through fluids. This doesn’t mean you need to rush to the doctor’s office, but it does mean you need to think about drinking water throughout the day.
If drinking regularly is not on your to-do list, you can start anytime. Just as when you begin any other new health routine, it takes practice. This may mean you need to work to remind yourself to take a sip until it’s a regular habit. Alarms, apps, post-its can all help as visual reminders to grab your bottle – whatever it takes to help.
2. Keep a water bottle with you at all times
Another visual trigger to drink up is to keep your water bottle sitting in front of you as a reminder. Fill it up as soon as it’s empty and take small sips throughout the day. If you’re at work, keep a water bottle on your desk. Running errands or on the go? Keep one in the car. If plain water doesn’t excite you, spice it up with sliced lemons or mint to make it more fun.
Just make sure to choose a glass or stainless steel water bottle to avoid exposure to endocrine disruptors from plastic bottles. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere or act like the hormones in your body. They are associated with adverse health outcomes that affect your brain, reproductive system, immune function, and more. While there has been an intense focus on the chemical BPA found in plastic bottles, even BPA-free plastic is linked to health concerns. To mitigate the risk of any of these chemicals, look for plastic-free bottles.
3. Consider electrolyte supplements to support fluid losses
Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are critical for regulating fluid balance in the body. While sweat is primarily made up of water, replacing the electrolytes lost while sweating is equally essential. Too little water intake can also disrupt the balance, leading to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, restless legs, and more.
There are many options for electrolyte replacements, from sports drinks to powders. Athletes who train in high-temperature conditions may need higher amounts of electrolyte replacements than the average person. Make sure you choose a supplement that is not filled with artificial ingredients or sweeteners.
4. Increase fluid intake if exercising
Make sure to drink fluids before, during, and after exercising. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests drinking six to twelve ounces of water for every 20 minutes of exercise. If possible, try to exercise early in the morning while it’s still cool, and add electrolyte powders to your water bottle to help boost your hydration.
Athletes or people exercising for more extended periods in hot climates may need even more. Fluid balance is critical for performance, sending necessary nutrients to muscles, and removing waste products. Studies also show that the sensation of thirst is a less accurate measure of hydration status while exercising, making it even more important to consistently drink up.
5. Eat water-filled fruits and veggies
As much as four cups of our fluid needs are met by eating foods with high water content. An added bonus is that many of these foods are also sources of electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. Fresh fruits and veggies can all contribute to your total fluid intake, but some of the top choices are:
6. Go easy on the alcohol
A cocktail may be tempting on a hot day, but it also dehydrates the body. When you drink alcohol, your body works hard to get rid of it, speeding up the process of waste removal. Alcohol suppresses the production of vasopressin, a hormone that helps regulate the amount of urine you make. As vasopressin production drops, urine output increases which can lead to dehydration. If you do choose to drink, make sure you follow each alcoholic beverage with a full glass of water.
Staying hydrated is a simple but crucial part of wellness. Luckily, it’s also an incredibly easy habit to start. And while it may not be the fanciest way to assess your hydration status, take a look after using the bathroom to make sure your pee is a healthy light yellow. Lighter urine is a sign of healthy hydration, while a darker yellow color means you need to drink more.
Use these six tips to make sure you spend your summer enjoying the sunshine and outdoors while avoiding the not-so-pleasant feelings of dehydration.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Revelation Health. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Revelation Health and associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Revelation Health encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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