Nutrients don’t only come in the form of food; water is the most important, and often most forgotten, nutrient. You can go a rather long time without food, but only days without water. Your lean body mass contains about 70 to 75% water, with fat containing much less: about 10 to 40% water. Because of increased muscle mass, men’s and athletes’ bodies contain more water than bodies with proportionately lower muscle and higher fat, such as nonathletic women, people who carry a higher percentage of adipose tissue and people who are older. Daily water intake needs to be balanced with losses to maintain total body water. Losing body water can adversely affect your functioning and health. Once you start feeling thirsty, you’re already somewhat dehydrated, with an estimated 1% loss of total body water. By the time you reach a 2% loss, you could experience serious fatigue, mental confusion and cardiovascular impairments.
Here are some summer hydration tips:
- Drink enough water to prevent thirst.
- Monitor fluid loss by checking the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow and not dark yellow, too smelly or cloudy.
- For less than 60 minutes of low to moderate intensity activity, water is a good choice to drink before, during and after exercise.
- If you are in extreme heat or exercising for more than 1 hour, alternate water with sports drink (Gatorade, Powerade, Coconut Water) that contains electrolytes and 68% carbohydrates.
- Begin activity wellhydrated. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and within the hour before, during and after your exercise session.
- Avoid alcohol the day before or the day of more intense activity, and don’t exercise with a hangover.
- Consider all fluids, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups (though excluding alcohol, which is extremely dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, according to the NRC’s Food and Nutrition Board.
- Eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables per day for overall health, as they all contain various levels of water and the all important nutrient potassium.
- Dilute juices, such as V8 or orange juice, 50/50 with water so that the drinks are 6% carbohydrate solutions (the same as sports drinks), which will empty from your stomach quicker than 100% juice (juices are naturally 12% solutions), allowing the electrolytes and water to quickly reach your heart and organs.
Edited by: Lindsey Traudt, LCPC