Health Advice That Holds Water
The secrets of proper hydration, in six smart steps
Exposure to the heat and the sun can cause anything from dehydration to electrolyte imbalances to heat stroke — and dehydration isn’t something we should take lightly.
Doctors are seeing more and more children who have kidney stones, according to a new report from WBZ News in Boston — a result, doctors believe, of dehydration. And we already know that more than half of children and young adults aren’t drinking as much water as they should, according to a study last year in the American Journal of Public Health. The numbers only rise in adults and are especially concerning for anyone who is exercising or playing sports in the summer heat.
Dehydration can affect both physical and cognitive performance, gastrointestinal, kidney, and heart function.
A recent review of the literature noted dehydration can affect both physical and cognitive performance, gastrointestinal, kidney, and heart function; it can also cause headaches, skin issues, and delirium. But don’t sweat it — there are easy ways to make sure you and your family stay hydrated.
1.) Be Conscious of Electrolytes
It’s not just water people need to stay hydrated. The human body needs electrolytes and carbohydrates, too, since these help absorb and put fluids to work. Every time you sweat, especially if you’re exercising or playing sports outside in the summer, you naturally lose electrolytes — such as sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Your body needs these electrolytes to help your nerves and muscles function, but you can easily replenish them through proper nutrition. Sports drinks like EAS hydrate and contain electrolytes as well as carbs — so you if you’re exercising for more than an hour at a time or in extreme heat, definitely consider bringing one of these drinks along.
2.) Reach for Summer Produce
About 20 percent of our daily fluid intake comes from foods. Many popular summer snacks are naturally high in water content — as well as carbs, minerals, and electrolytes. Some good examples include strawberries, melon, and tomatoes, which are all refreshing options on a hot summer day.
Losing any more than 1 percent of your body weight through sweat causes you to fatigue faster.
Infusing water with fruits and vegetables, like cucumber, also offers a healthy dose of flavor. This one's essential, especially if you have kids, since younger children often prefer drinking juices or other sweet-tasting drinks. Research from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, has even found that young boys drink up to 90 percent more fluid when they're given the option of flavored drinks that contain both carbs and electrolytes.
3.) Keep Track of Your Weight
By weighing yourself before and after exercise, you can make sure you aren't losing a ton of water weight through sweat, meaning you're dehydrated. When weighing yourself, remember every pound lost during exercise represents about 16 ounces of water you need to replenish.
Losing any more than 1 percent of your body weight causes you to fatigue faster. No matter what exercise you're doing, it will feel harder than it should, which is definitely not optimal. If you find you lose more than 1 percent of your body weight during a workout, prioritize rehydration and make sure to drink more fluids during your next workout. (And when you do step on the scale, do it naked so it's the most accurate.)
4.) Pay Attention to the Toilet
The color of your urine is an important and incredibly simple indicator of how hydrated you are. If your urine is a light yellow, the shade of lemonade, you're probably fine — but if it's dark yellow, more like apple juice, then it's time to be concerned. If you notice a darker color, rehydrate immediately.
5.) Make Travel Plans
While traveling, it can be hard to stay on top of hydration. After all, you have to give up any liquids you had with you at airport security, and airplanes are known for pumping out dry air that contributes to low hydration levels upon landing.
The best way to avoid this issue is to pack refillable water bottles in your carry-on bags. That way, you can refill them once you pass security. (Plus, you'll save having to buy expensive bottles of water at the airport gift shop.) To guarantee electrolytes, also pack a Pedialyte powder stick that can be carried on board and mixed right into your water.
One tip: Do not drink soda at the airport or on the plane. Not only is it poor at hydrating, its high sugar content can prevent the body from properly absorbing fluids.
6.) Get Hydrated Ahead of Time
One easy way to get on track before heading out for a hard morning workout is to drink a lot of water the night before. Starting your day hydrated is one of the most important things you can do.
If you have kids who have activities first thing in the morning, this is important for them too. If they go to bed without water, they'll likely feel groggy in the morning, as well as more likely to suffer from dehydration during their sports games. Aim for maximizing the water your family drinks a few hours before bedtime and add in healthy fluids at breakfast for your kids.
Pamela Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, a 20-time marathoner, Ironman triathlete, and sports dietitian, manages professional partnerships and education for Abbott's EAS Sports Nutrition. She writes the "Fuel School" column for Runner's World magazine.