It’s finally summer. Soon, whether we’re taking summer classes or taking some time for ourselves, we’ll all be sweating buckets. During this hot season, dehydration can become dangerous. So, to prep for the summer, let’s talk about the importance of hydration, signs of dehydration, dehydration risk factors, how much/what to drink, and some tips.
The heart is a very hard-working organ – it pumps about 1,500-2,000 gallons of blood per day and beats about 60-120 times per minute. Given the heart’s importance, it’s a good idea to facilitate its efforts as much as possible. Drinking sufficient water helps to prevent the blood from becoming overly viscous, which would make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. Overly-thick blood can lead to increased risk of heart attack , stroke, and overall poor circulation (which are all not-so-good things).
Signs of Dehydration:
- Dark/very yellow urine
- Dry mouth/thirst
- Constant sleepiness
- Constant snacking/cravings
When To Be Extra Vigilant:
There are certain environments and activities that can pose a threat to hydration. Here are a few:
- Heat: if the weather is 70°F or above, our bodies are more at-risk for dehydration. At these temperatures, start to consume a little more water than normal. Be very diligent about water consumption during temperatures of 90° F or above.
- Physical activity: While hydration is important all the time (sedentary or active), physical activity brings on a need to drink more. To find out how much more you should be drinking during activity check out the ‘how much?’ section below.
- Pre-existing conditions: Diabetes, being prone to extra perspiration, being overweight, or having any type of heart condition make hydration extra critical. Those who match these descriptions need to be especially conscious of your level hydration and perhaps consume more water than a person without any of these conditions.
This is a question with no solid answer. There is no exact formula for how much one should drink, but there are different estimations:
- Method 1: The classic “8 eight-ounce glasses of water/fluid each day” mantra.
- Method 2: In ounces, drink half your body weight (in pounds) per day (i.e., if you weight 150 lbs, drink 75 oz of water per day).
- Method 3: Monitor pee. Urine color is a great indicator of hydration. Ideal urine is a pale yellow. If it’s bright/dark yellow, you’re dehydrated. If it’s clear, the body is overwhelmed with water and isn’t getting the time it needs to extract/expel toxins from your body.
- Drinking for exercise: Try drinking 30 minutes before your workout. Drink 8 extra ounces for working out indoors – 12 extra for outside. Additionally, drink 8-12 more ounces every 15-30 minutes of exercise.
Ways to Hydrate
Fantastic ways to stay hydrated:
- Straight-water: the all-star of hydration. Since it directly replenishes the water within our bodies, it is the best hydrator around. Plus, it’s a lot easier to consume in high-enough quantities than other sources of water – it’s amazing! On the other hand, we all know that guzzling ounce after ounce of water can quickly become boring. Put a few drops of lemon or lime into your water for an immediate flavor-booster. For a more slowly-wrought flavor, you can also try combining your water with mint, berries, cucumber, melons, or other fruits and steeping it for a couple of hours.
- Food: Many fruits and vegetables hold a lot of water and can provide for a considerable chunk of daily water intake. Great sources of food-hydration are: lettuce, melons, grapes, lettuce, cucumbers, and berries.
OK ways to stay hydrated:
Tea: Lots of teas contain caffeine, which is dehydrating. However, if a tea is low/no caffeine, it should be a wonderfully-flavored way to keep hydrated. Be wary about adding too many sugars into tea – this can render it dehydrating, rather than hydrating.
Coconut water: Coconut water has been touted as a beverage that’s even more hydrating than classic H20. Coconut water has great properties, including high amounts of potassium, but beyond-water hydration is not one of them. In addition to higher levels of potassium, coconut water also has higher levels of sugar – which causes dehydration. Sources say that hydration is still possible with coconut water, but don’t let it be the majority of consumed fluids. In addition, only choose coconut water without any added sugars.
Terrible ways to stay hydrated:
Soda/energy drinks/fruit juices: The cells in the human body largely function based on a concentration gradient. That is, the water in your body will go in or out of your cells, depending on whether there is more sugar/salt/etc in them or outside of them. In order to stay hydrated, most of the water needs to be in the cells (therefore most of the sugar and whatnot needs to be in the cells, too). But, consuming a lot of sugar can lead to more sugar in running around outside of your cells than inside of them. This will cause the water in your cells to exit your cells, leaving them quite thirsty and sad (thus leaving you quite thirsty and sad). So, any drink high in sugar will not re-hydrate, but instead further dehydrate. Although sports drinks are treated as a good way to stay hydrated, the truth is they have nearly the same amount of sugar as a soda and will be equally dehydrating. Fruit juices should not be used as your main hydrators, but definitely stick to 100% juice blends with no added sugars when drinking them.
Coffee: As mentioned before, caffeine is a dehydrator. This is because caffeine inhibits one of of the body’s major water reclamation systems. If you consume high amounts of caffeine, the water consumed will just flow right back out. Coffee is extremely high in caffeine (which is kind of why we all love it so much), so it is not satisfactory for hydration. But, we’re not trying to kid ourselves our you – coffee consumption is probably still gonna happen. When consuming coffee drink an extra glass of water to off-set the effects of the caffeine.
There are multiple obstacles to staying hydrated: finding the time, remembering to drink, having the desire to drink, or having access to water.
- Set phone reminders. The universally useful phone alarm comes to save the day once again, reminding us to drink up. In case you don’t like your phone’s alarm, there are apps that will also serve the purpose of reminding you, including My Water Balance and Plant Nanny (a really cute app that lets you water and foster the life of a virtual plant each time you guzzle water).
- Bring a re-usable water bottle so that water is always available when needed. An ideal water bottle has a 16+ ounce capacity, a mouth that’s easy to drink from, and a sturdy, water-tight lid. The tap water in Statesboro (and throughout most of the U.S.) is safe for drinking, so you can fill up at literally any sink. If you prefer filtered water, there’s also an abundance of water fountains on campus.
- Keep water interesting by using fruit infusions and other natural flavoring methods (like lemon).
- Drink while distracted. Water is great, but drinking water is a pretty boring activity. It’s easier to drink high quantities when you’re just doing it on the side as you’re watching TV or walking – just keep mindlessly bringing your glass to your lips and you’ll be hydrated in no time.
- Make a habit of drinking water by drinking at certain times. Drinking a glass of water directly after waking up is not only a refreshing way to wake up, but also a wonderful way to form a habit of drinking water. It’s also helpful to drink water with each meal or before going to bed.
- Cool down with some delicious popsicles made of coconut water, fruit bits, or frozen fruit puree.
So, folks, remember to drink plenty of water and take care of your heart!
Here’s to a healthy summer,
– The University Wellness Program
P.S. Want a good recipe for cucumber water? Watch this video by Macka B!