As we begin to experience the summer heat, it is important to remember how to properly stay hydrated. Water is one of the most essential components of the human body, consisting of about 70 percent water (Bachus, 2016). It regulates the body’s temperature, cushions and protects vital organs and aids the digestive system. For this reason, it is impossible to sustain life without it.
How much water do you need each day? This is a common question, and the answer will be dependent on an individual’s sweat rate, water loss through waste excretion, food and beverage consumption, metabolic water loss and any water lost through respiration. Generally, it is recommended to drink eight 8-ounce cups of water a day for a total of 64-ounces (Nitschke, 2016). However, more personalized guideline is to hydrate throughout the day, before experiencing thirst.
Thirst is an indicator of the body becoming dehydrated and can be accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms: headaches, fatigue, weight loss, concentrated and decreased urine, increased heart rate and low blood pressure, as well as dry mouth and eyes. For active individuals, this can also include a loss of coordination and/or muscle cramps, which can impact performance (American Council on Exercise, 2009). If exercising for 60 minutes or less, it is recommended to hydrate with plain water and remember these guidelines:
* Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before the start of exercise
* Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
* Drink 16 to 24 ounces for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.
Don’t like the taste of water? Get creative – add a squeeze of citrus fruit, muddle some mint leaves in the bottom of your bottle or infuse it with cucumbers or berries to give your water flavor. You can also experiment with the temperature. For example, if you prefer cold water versus room temperature, simply place a bottle in the freezer an hour before exercise. In addition to plain water, some foods possess hydrating properties to support daily hydration requirements. These include but are not limited to fruit, vegetables, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, coffee, tea, and oatmeal (Nitschke, 2016).
Yes, it is possible to overhydrate. One may experience this during exercise exceeding more than 60 minutes while drinking plain water. This risk is known as hyponatremia, in which the body’s electrolyte levels become imbalanced. In the human body, electrolytes must be present in proper concentrations to maintain fluid balance, muscle contraction, and neural activity (Dolan, 2017). Do you ever notice dried salt on your body during or after physical activity? Water follows the movement of electrolytes, particularly sodium and chloride, which can be lost through sweat. For this reason, during physical activity exceeding 60 minutes, it is recommended to rehydrate with a sports drink that contains both carbohydrates and electrolytes (e.g., Gatorade). Electrolyte replacement products also come in other portable forms, such as sports gels, candy, gummies, and dissolvable tables. Furthermore, after exercise, it is recommended to consume snacks that contain moderate sodium, such as mixed nuts, pretzels, pickles, and crackers.
How can you tell if you’re properly hydrated? The most effective way to monitor hydration is to monitor urine output (Nitschke, 2016). Urine should be a pale yellow color. If darker, this may be a sign of dehydration. Also, specific medications and/or supplements may affect the color of urine. For concerns regarding the side effects of supplements or medications on hydration, check with your physician or primary health care provider.
American Council on Exercise. (2009, January 29). Healthy Hydration. Retrieved June 15, 2018, from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6675/healthy-hydration
Bachus, T. (2016, March 2). 4 Easy Ways to Drink More Water. Retrieved June 15, 2018, from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/5857/4-easy-ways-to-drink-more-water
Dolan, S. H. (2017). Electrolytes: Understanding Replacement Options. Retrieved June 15, 2018, from https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/715/electrolytes-understanding-replacement-options/
Nitschke, E. (2016, December 28). Eat Your Water – Sources of Hydrating Foods. Retrieved June 15, 2018, from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6211/eat-your-water-sources-of-hydrating-foods
About the Author
JP de Guzman is a Bay Area native, fitness coach, and self-proclaimed marathon runner. When he is not mastering his craft, he spends quality time with friends and family, keeps up with the latest fashion and sneaker culture, and enjoys leisure travel. In the past year, he has explored and crossed off all five of the U.S. National Parks located in Utah.