Your body is made up of about 60 percent water, so it's no surprise that staying hydrated is vital to your health. And it's especially important to be aware of your fluid intake during the hot and humid summer days.
Why water? Your body needs water to:
- Carry nutrients to all the cells in your body
- Digest food and then remove waste products
- Control body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Support your immune system
- Protect your joints
- Keep eyes, ears, nose, and throat moist
Without water, your body becomes dehydrated. Dehydration can affect not only your heart rate and blood pressure but also your mental functioning, including alertness, concentration, and short-term memory.
Fortunately, your body does a good job of letting you know when you are starting to get dehydrated. You know the feeling of being thirsty, but other symptoms include:
- Dry, sticky mouth due to decreased saliva
- Less, and darker, urine than normal
- Few or no tears, sunken eyes
- Dry, cool skin
- Fast heart rate
- Muscle weakness, fatigue, dizziness, irritability
- Listlessness, loss of consciousness (signs of severe dehydration)
The best way to avoid dehydration is to replace the water your body needs on a consistent basis. The average healthy woman should take in about 91 ounces of water from beverages and food every day, and the average healthy man about 125 ounces. The breakdown is 80 percent from beverages and 20 percent from food.
Summer can be especially tough on your body's cooling system. The hot and humid weather causes you to sweat more, and any physical activity—from walking the dog or doing simple yard work to playing sports—increases your body's need for fluids. The American Council on Exercise recommends the following, depending on the intensity of the activity:
- Two to three hours before exercising, drink 17 to 20 ounces of water.
- Twenty to 30 minutes before exercising, drink eight ounces of fluid.
- During the workout, drink seven to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes.
- After exercise, drink eight ounces of fluid within 30 minutes of the workout.
If water gets boring, you can spice it up by squeezing sliced fruit into your glass or adding a sprig of fresh peppermint. You can also take advantage of summer's fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fruits that can help you hydrate include watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, raspberries, apricots, oranges, peaches, pineapple, and plums. Vegetables to consider are celery, iceberg lettuce, tomato, zucchini, broccoli, green cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, and spinach.
Some medications and illnesses can affect your daily intake, so ask your doctor if you have a concern about not getting enough fluids. Although there are many sports drinks and zero-calorie beverages on the market, water and food sources are the preferable choices. Be safe this summer, and keep that water bottle handy.