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Staying Hydrated – Staying Healthy

August 9, 2021

Expert guest blog: Caitlyn Freeman, RD, Clinical Dietitian

When the temperatures rise, getting enough to drink is important, whether you’re playing sports, traveling or just sitting in the sun.

Being properly hydrated means providing adequate water needed by the body for its basic functions. These functions include respiration, digestion, circulation, absorption, lubrication, excretion, energy production and regulation of body temperature. Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.

How much water do you need?

What does being well-hydrated mean? The amount of water a person needs depends on climatic conditions, clothing worn and exercise intensity and duration. A person who perspires heavily will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean you need to drink more water. Also, some medications can act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid. Thirst isn’t the best indicator that you need to drink. Once you have the sensation of thirst, you are already dehydrated. Paying attention to the color of your urine can serve as a useful assessment. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, you need to drink more fluids.

Water is best.

For most people, water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. Sources of water also include foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which contain a high percentage of water. Sports drinks with electrolytes may be useful for people doing high-intensity exercise (think marathon runners or triathletes). However, these drinks are not intended for people who engage in normal, everyday activities. Keep in mind that these drinks tend to be high in added sugars and calories. Generally speaking, the average American gets plenty of sodium in their diet and should be getting other electrolytes such as calcium and potassium from fruits and vegetables. You should avoid sugary fruit juices and sodas as well as caffeine drinks, which acts as a diuretics and causes you to lose more fluids. Drinking water before you exercise or go out into the sun is the most important first step. Otherwise, you will be playing catch-up afterwards.

“But water is so boring!”

Here are just a few ways to make water more interesting if you find it hard to motivate yourself to take in the extra H2O.

  • Infusion water: infused with fruit, honey, lemon, cucumber, herbs
  • Seltzer water (carbonated)
  • Green tea
  • Coconut water
  • Ice water
  • Water flavor packets that are free of sugar and sugar substitutes