How Important is Hydration, Really?

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As the summer begins and the heat gets hotter how will you and your loved ones stay hydrated?

Many know that staying hydrated is important but what does it mean to be hydrated? How much is enough fluid? What fluids improve hydration? What happens if we don’t stay hydrated?

We aim to answer these questions and offer tips to make hydration easy!

Water is important for many of our bodily functions because it makes up approximately 60% of the human body. Because of this, there are many benefits to maintaining adequate hydration including:

  • Supports proper function of your heart, brain, and muscles
  • Proper flow of nutrients to your cells
  • Prevents constipation
  • Removes toxins
  • Delays physical fatigue
  • Maintains mental alertness

It is essential to consume fluids for hydration year-round as it is possible to become dehydrated during any season. But, rising summer temperatures and humidity make dehydration even more likely.

If we don’t stay properly hydrated we run the risk of suffering the physical consequences of dehydration including dizziness, weakness, and confusion. Signs you may be dehydrated include dark-colored urine or decreased urine output, light-headedness, flushed skin, and intolerance to heat.

If you or someone you know is suffering from these symptoms it is important to get out of the heat and seek medical attention quickly.

It is also easier to become dehydrated at higher altitudes if you are not appropriately acclimated. At higher elevations, the heart and lungs have to work harder to supply the body with oxygen, which means we must breathe more rapidly. Respiration is one of the ways in which we lose bodily fluid, after urination and perspiration, so breathing more rapidly can increase fluid losses.

How Much Is Enough?

Everyone is different and, therefore, everybody needs a different amount of water. The old adage “eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day” really doesn’t meet everyone’s needs.

A more personalized rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight. For example, if a person weighs 200 pounds they should aim to drink 100 ounces of fluid daily. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic offers these factors and tips when determining how much water you need each day.

An easy way to quickly assess your hydration status is to take a look at your urine.

Aim to stay in the hydrated range as much as possible. Drink more fluids regularly if you find that you typically hover around the dehydrated range. We never intentionally become dehydrated; however, if your urine is dark in color like the chart it is recommended that you seek medical attention quickly.

Fluids for Hydration

Not all fluids are equal when it comes to hydration. Some beverages like alcohol and caffeinated drinks can increase dehydration. It is important to consume hydrating beverages and increase your fluid intake when outdoors or exercising. 

For ideal hydration, your best bet is to consume water regularly throughout the day. But plain water can get boring day in and day out so keep it interesting with infusions!

Fun with Infusions

  • Lemon Lime
  • Cucumber Mint
  • Strawberry Lime
  • Honey Lemon Ginger
  • Apple Cinnamon
  • Orange Pineapple
  • Create Your Own!

Don’t worry too much about precise recipes or ratios. Simply add a few slices of your favorite fruits, vegetables, herbs, or spices to water, refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, and enjoy!

In addition to the liquids we consume, paying attention to the foods we eat can help with hydration as well. Fruits and vegetables are a great way to support healthy hydration. Think about a juicy watermelon or cucumber―these foods have high water content and can help you stay hydrated.

Exercise Hydration

For the majority of us, water is the best fluid to consume during exercise. It is generally the recommended drink for exercise sessions lasting 60 minutes or less. If an exercise session is greater than 60 minutes, particularly intense, or conditions are quite hot and humid, sports drinks containing carbohydrates and electrolytes may be recommended.

While commercial sports drinks are available, they can be quite expensive and most contain artificial colors among other things that may not be ideal for health. Consider making your own sports drink such as these recommended by dietitians from the US Olympic Committee.

Personal Hydration Plan

For the most part, we can stay hydrated by drinking when we are thirsty. But during exercise, travel, or excessive heat or humidity, our thirst may fall behind our need for fluid. This is where a personal hydration plan can help.

Interested in knowing just how much you need to hydrate? During your normal routine, weigh yourself before and after exercise. To stay hydrated you will want to drink up to 16 ounces of fluid for each pound lost per hour. For example, if a person weighs 150 pounds prior to exercise then weighs 148 pounds after exercising for an hour, they should aim to drink 32 ounces of water during an hour-long exercise session. With this goal, the person is aiming to maintain their hydration status during exercise.

Apps such as MySweatRate can help you assess your sweat rate and create a plan to prevent dehydration during exercise.

Have Fun

Since hydration is vital for health and exercise performance, it can be somewhat stressful to think about. Rather than worrying about how much, when, or what to drink, try to keep it simple and maybe even fun.

Carry a reusable water bottle with you. Select a bottle with a motivational saying or measurements. Determine how many of those bottles you want to drink daily. You can even make it a game. Can you hit your goal? Then get out and play before summer ends!

Check out the Medi-Share Wellness Library for free health and wellness tips! 

Debbie Ryan is a Public Relations Specialist with Christian Care Ministry/Medi-Share. In addition to being a wife and mom, Debbie is passionate about health and wellness, and encourages others in healthy living every chance she gets.

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