You know staying hydrated is important, especially in the heat and humidity of summer. So how much water should you drink every day?
The answer depends on your personal health, and how active you are. Start by thinking about how often you head for the bathroom. In general, you should drink enough so you need to urinate every two to four hours.
But don’t assume that what is true in the winter will be the same in the summer. Or that what works for you at home will be the same when you travel to a different climate.
Whether you are just sitting out on a warm day or competing in extreme sports, your body needs extra fluids during the heat of summer to maintain a healthy balance.
Traveling to a location with more humidity, or to a sunny beach where the breeze is cool, may trick you into thinking you don’t need to drink as much, when the opposite may actually be true.
Remember, if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. So make sure you drink enough so that you don’t get thirsty.
If you know you are going to be sweating a lot, it’s a good idea to weigh yourself before and after you head outdoors. For every pound of sweat that you lose, you’ll need to drink two to three cups of water or other fluids to help your body recover.
Be sure to remember how much water you drank to catch up this time, so you can plan ahead next time. If the conditions are similar, plan to drink that same amount of fluid before and during your activity next time, so you won’t fall behind on hydration again.
What should I drink to stay hydrated?
If you are exercising for an hour or less, reach for water before, during and after your workout.
If you are working or exercising in extreme heat or for more than an hour, you may need to supplement your water with sports drinks that include electrolytes.
When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes along with water. So replenishing electrolytes can help your fluids stay in balance.
Eating at least five cups of fruits and vegetables can also help keep your fluids in balance. Some fruits are almost entirely made up of water, and most contain a good supply of water and potassium.
Other good sources to help replenish lost nutrients such as sodium include dried fruit and nut mixes, soups, vegetable juice and fruit juice.
If you choose juices, such as orange or V8 juices, you may want to dilute it with an equal amount of water to lower the number of carbs per serving. Juice that is high in carbohydrates may be slow to leave your stomach, which means needed fluid will be slow to get into your bloodstream.
What are other causes of dehydration?
In addition to not drinking enough and losing fluids through sweat, you can also become dehydrated if you have a fever, are sick with vomiting or diarrhea, or if you take diuretic medications that make you urinate too much.
How can I tell if I’m dehydrated?
Early symptoms of dehydration include 2:
• Feeling thirsty
• Dark yellow urine
• Not producing much urine, or long stretches between the need to urinate
• Dry or sticky mouth
• Dry, cool skin
• Muscle cramps
Severe hydration can be a life-threatening condition. Signs of severe hydration include 2:
• Very dark yellow or orange urine
• Not producing urine
• Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
• Feeling irritated or confused
• Rapid heartbeat
• Rapid breathing
• Feeling listless
• Sunken eyes
• Shock — Lack of blood flow can affect organ function
• Unconsciousness or delirium
• Dry, shriveled skin — skin should normally pop back into place if pinched. Dehydrated skin may feel saggy or recover slowly when pinched.
Severe dehydration can cause permanent brain damage, seizures and death. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency. Call 911 right away if you, or someone near you, shows signs of severe dehydration.
Is it possible to drink too much water?
Although it is rare, it's possible to drink enough water to become seriously sick. Hyponatremia is a condition that results when your sodium levels drop too low, usually as a result of drinking very large quantities of water.
The condition is rare, but is most often seen in athletes participating in endurance events such as marathons or triathlons.
If you are concerned about hyponatremia, a good test is to weigh yourself before and after activity. If you lose weight, you are not drinking enough. But if you gain weight, you are drinking too many fluids.
If you have questions about dehydration, hyponatremia, or what you can do to stay hydrated, talk to your health care provider.
1) Live Science. 13 Tips for Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat (Op-Ed). Katherine Tallmadge. Web. June 17, 2015.
2) MedlinePlus. Dehydration. Web. June 17, 2015.
3) WebMD. The Quest for Hydration. Heather Hatfield. Web. June 17, 2015.
4) Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and healthy eating. Web. June 17, 2015.
Reviewed June 19, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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