By Andrea Reynolds
Simplified Nutrition Coaching
DYK that our bodies are around 60% WATER?
Even our bones have water in their composition.
Water is key to many of our body’s functions, including aiding in digestion, and regulating body temperature. It is also the medium for nutrients to move throughout our bodies. Water facilitates countless metabolic reactions in the body.
Did you know that being dehydrated just as little as 1% body of your body weight (that’s 2 lb for a 200 lb person) can affect you cognitively–slows down your ability to think clearly–and can affect your performance in endurance and strength.
Learn the signs of dehydration.
It’s not always transparent when we are in need of water. Symptoms of dehydration can include:
- thirst (though thirst is not always the best indicator of your hydration status…)
- dry skin
- fatigue and weakness
- high body temperature
- muscle cramps
- darker-colored urine
- dry mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes)
When we are under the weather and suffering from illnesses that include vomiting, and/or diarrhea, our bodies go through a fluid imbalance, putting us at risk for dehydration.
For people over 65 years old, staying hydrated is especially important. One of the top reasons elderly people are admitted to the hospital is for dehydration. Even mild dehydration can lead to dizziness and fainting. A fall can be detrimental and challenging for older people to recover from. Sadly, some won’t fully recover from a fall that results in a serious injury, which occurs in one out of five falls.
How much water do I need to hydrate?
As thirst is not always the best indicator of being properly hydrated, it’s important to drink water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Yes, thirst tells you that you ARE thirsty but also that you are already on your way to a dehydrated state.
Have you heard the old advice “drink eight glasses of water a day?” Well, the amount you need depends upon various things, especially your current activity level, diet and climate. You’ll likely need more than eight glasses, especially if you are active or in a hot climate. A good basic rule of thumb is to take your body weight (in pounds) and divide it by 2. This is the base number of ounces of water that you should be drinking each day. Then you add more water depending on activity, weather, etc. If you are exercising heavily for more than an hour, you will need to hydrate during your workout as well as throughout the day after you’ve completed your workout. For every pound of water you lose through sweat during exercise, you need to rehydrate by drinking 2 cups of fluid.
What are good fluids that help hydrate? Well, remember that water intake doesn’t come only from drinking water. It also comes from tea, coffee, milk, non-dairy milk, and water from solid foods. Fruits and vegetables have high water content. Foods like cucumber, iceberg lettuce, strawberries and watermelon are almost all water by weight. With thirst as a guide, we can be generally well hydrated especially if we are eating fruits and vegetables as well as a well balanced diet.
Both coffee and herbal teas are considered to be healthy drinks. However, consuming too much caffeine can negatively impact your health, causing dependence, irritability, headaches, and sleeplessness. Keep your intake to less than 300 to 400 mg per day.
A note on alcohol and hydration…
Alcohol is a huge dehydrator. Try to limit your intake, but if you are going to have a drink, aim for at least a one-to-one ratio with water.
Watch Out for Sugary Drinks!
Beverages contribute to more than one third of the sugar that is consumed daily by adults. There is a lot of sugar hiding in soda as well as summertime drinks, even that refreshing lemonade can pack in extra sugar if it’s heavily sweetened. Read labels and watch the number of sugar grams in your drinks. Many beverages can positively contribute to your nutrient intake, but it is easy to consume too many calories when you drink them, especially as part of a meal. Focus on fluid intake from low-calorie sources.
Tips for staying hydrated this summer
- Drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning to get your systems going.
- Keep water by your desk at work or in the car as you drive.
- Drink a glass of water before each meal.
- Add flavor to your water with sliced fruit like citrus, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple etc, and cucumber.
- Every time you use the bathroom, drink a glass of water. (You might be visiting the facilities a little more often, but it will keep you hydrated!)
- Drink before, during & after exercise — 2 hrs before workout drink 14-24 oz, During exercise, drink 20-36 oz per hour of exercise (5-12 oz for every 15 minutes)
- Remember these foods: cucumber, iceberg lettuce, strawberries and watermelon are packed with water
Don’t rely on your thirst—drink fluids throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty.