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Staying Hydrated in the Heat

With summer activities still in full swing and school sports about to start back up, it is especially important to drink enough water and pay attention to your hydration status. When your body is well hydrated you perform better, have better brain function, are able to digest your food properly and maintain your energy and mood. With just 1% water loss the body can see an impact in these functions.

Even the everyday athlete needs to pay attention to their hydration status! Staying well hydrated allows your body to function optimally as well as to stay ahead of any undesirable effects of heat related illnesses, such as dehydration.. You may have been told to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to ensure proper hydration. However, there is no one fluid recommendation that will be adequate for everyone. Let’s explore how to keep an eye on your hydration status and strategize for optimal hydration!

Why You Sweat: 

In the warmer months, it becomes even more important to stay well hydrated due to the increased loss of water through sweat. Sweat may just feel like a nuisance, but it actually serves an important purpose. Sweating is the body’s natural way to cool itself down. When your body heats up, due to factors such as exercise or outside temperature, the brain signals sweat to be released to cool the body down. When there is a large amount of sweat lost and not replaced, it can lead to dehydration. The change in climate is often overlooked when it comes to implementing a hydration strategy, and when you exercise in the heat it can exacerbate the performance-impairing effects of dehydration even further, making it more important to increase your water intake. 

Electrolytes’ Role in Hydration: 

Electrolytes are responsible for fluid retention, muscle contraction and nerve function. They are important for keeping fluid in balance, in and around your cells. Some of the most important electrolytes for hydration are sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. By consuming foods that contain these essential minerals, it can aid in rehydration. 

Sodium: This mineral is vital for maintaining fluid balance. With too much sodium loss you can experience muscle cramps and a decrease in performance. Sodium is the primary electrolyte that is lost in sweat so for warm weather and heavy sweaters, it is important to replenish sodium levels. 

Some foods that are naturally high in sodium are pickles, olives and deli meat. 

Potassium: Along with sodium, potassium prevents muscle cramping. This mineral also helps maintain blood pressure levels.

Some foods that are naturally high in Potassium are potatoes, bananas, avocado and watermelon. 

Calcium: Calcium is needed for muscle contraction and many other functions throughout the body.

Some foods that are naturally high in calcium are yogurt, almonds and dark leafy greens. 

Magnesium: This mineral aids in muscle relaxation, bone building and various other functions.

Some foods that are naturally high in magnesium are dark chocolate, avocado, almonds and legumes. 

Signs of Dehydration:

So how do you know if you are dehydrated? Here are a few practical ways that you can determine if you need to improve your hydration strategy. 

  1. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. Since sweat loss is an indicator of hydration, checking your bodyweight before and after exercise can help estimate how much fluid was lost through sweat and therefore how much water is needed to replenish the loss. 
  2. Check your urine. Checking your urine throughout the day can help determine hydration status. Lemonade colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration while a small volume of dark colored urine likely indicates dehydration.
  3. Other signs of dehydration are dry mouth, dry skin, muscle cramps, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and increased heartbeat. 

Strategies to Avoid Dehydration:

The best way to manage dehydration is to avoid it! Keeping yourself well hydrated during warm months and periods of activity can help keep dehydration at bay. 

  • Carry around a water bottle — It can be either a simple water bottle kept within arms reach during the majority of the day or a fancier container with reminders to drink amounts of water, the trick is just to keep it within eyesight so when you first experience thirst you are more likely to take a few sips!
  • Flavor water with fresh berries, citrus or herbs — Water doesn’t have to be plain or boring. Infusions or even a sprig of mint or basil can make drinking your recommended quantity easier and more satisfying. If you are concerned about weight management, it should be noted that the calories from the added fruit or herbs is minimal and the more hydrated you are the less likely you will overeat by mistaking thirst for hunger.
  • Eat fresh produce throughout the day — Fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables contain water which can contribute to your overall fluid intake during the day. They are also high in those micronutrients that are essential for electrolyte balance. 
  • Drink coconut water with sea salt — Studies have shown that coconut water with sea salt may be just as effective in replenishing electrolytes as their commercial sports drink counterparts and are less likely to cause digestive issues or nausea when ingested in large amounts. 
  • Don’t forget your electrolytes — electrolytes are those micronutrients that help regulate fluid balance in the body. You can get them from both food and beverages. To make sure you are getting adequate amounts to prevent dehydration during the summer months, before physical activity focus on drinking water and eating a small, salty snack, while during or after replacing electrolytes with a sports drink.

Overall, your body needs water and staying hydrated can be more difficult in the warmer months and with increased activity. By getting ahead of your water consumption you can avoid dehydration and therefore perform better, have better brain function and maintain your energy and mood. 


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