Many factors play a role in good health, and one of the most important is also one of the most overlooked: proper hydration.
During the Mid-South’s hot, humid summers, it is especially crucial to stay hydrated, but it can be hard to take in enough fluids. Despite water being critical to sustaining life and an important part of overall health, many people still don’t drink enough of it.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
Figure out your body weight in pounds. Divide that in half, and that’s the low end for how many ounces of fluid you need each day. Your total weight is the high end for ounces of fluid. If you weigh 150 pounds you should consume between 75 and 150 ounces of fluid daily.
When To Drink More
Your fluid needs increase under certain circumstances. Anyone who eats a lot of protein and/or fiber should increase fluids, as should those with chronic illnesses or taking certain medications. The very young and the elderly or older adults are also at greater risk for dehydration. People with conditions like heart or kidney disease should follow their provider’s guidance for fluid intake/hydration.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you need more fluids to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Sweating a lot puts you at higher risk of dehydration. Increase your fluid intake when it’s hotter and/or when you’re more active.
Hydration Schedule For Exercise
Before: About 15–30 minutes before starting, aim for 7–12 ounces
During: Every 15–20 minutes during exercise, aim for 4–8 ounces
After: Drink 8 ounces immediately and 2–3 cups over the next few hours
If you are active for long periods of time, you may need sports drinks with electrolytes. Just be mindful of the sugar content. You don’t want to consume significant calories from added sugar.
What To Do If You Become Dehydrated
Be aware of the signs of dehydration and overheating and get to a cool place and drink water if you experience them. Nausea, headaches, faintness, muscle cramps, and fatigue are all serious red flags, and more subtle signals include chapped lips, dry skin, bloating, or a hoarse voice. It’s best to regularly consume fluids, not wait until you feel thirsty. Avoid too much alcohol or caffeinated drinks, which can be dehydrating.
Tips To Stay Hydrated Throughout The Day
Try starting and ending your day with a glass of water and drinking water before each meal and with meals. Carry a refillable bottle and sip throughout the day, or drink 1 cup per hour during the workday. These are easy ways to meet your hydration goals.
While water truly is the best rehydration choice, smoothies and juices with no added sugar, tea, sparkling water, low-fat milk, and even popsicles are good options for mixing it up. Infusing water with mint, citrus slices, berries, etc. is also flavorful and healthy. Eating fresh produce like cucumbers, peaches, berries, oranges, tomatoes, and melons have high water content and can help.
The Simplest Way To Feel Your Best
While you may understand you need to stay hydrated to avoid serious health emergencies, you may not realize just how much better this simple step can make you feel. Proper hydration helps prevent kidney stones, promotes stable blood pressure, reduces asthma and allergy symptoms, and even eases hangovers. It regulates body temperature, improves digestion, and keeps the mouth; nose; and eyes from feeling dry.
Fluids boost performance during strenuous activity by making minerals and nutrients more accessible to different parts of the body, helping deliver oxygen throughout the body and keeping joints lubricated. Cognitively, it prevents negative impacts on the brain, hormones, and neurotransmitters that can lead to problems with thinking and reasoning.
There are even aesthetic benefits. Drinking water promotes weight loss and reduces vulnerability to skin disorders and premature wrinkling. Proper hydration can be a challenge, but your body will thank you. If you get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day and try some healthy alternatives to keep things interesting, you can feel better, look better and perform better!
Try these easy recipes from the American Heart Association for tasty hydration!
- 4 sliced strawberries
- 2 muddled fresh basil leaves
- 3 cups of water
- 1/2 cup of cubed watermelon
- 3 cucumber muddled slices
- 2 sprigs muddled fresh mint leaves
- 3 cups of water
- 1 sliced/muddled orange
- 10 crushed/muddled cranberries
- 3 cups of water
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before drinking in order to bring out the flavors. Add one cup of ice before drinking.
Jacqueline Daughtry is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Regional One Health. For more information, go to Regionalonehealth.org.