Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
According to a report on Dietary Reference Intakes from the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, water is the largest single component of our bodies, making up about 45 to 75 percent of body weight. Water has several important functions in the body including serving as the medium of transport for nutrients, eliminating waste, maintaining vascular volume, regulating cell metabolism, lubricating joints, improving memory, mood, and sleep quality, and supporting a healthy immune system.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website published an article on water intake stating that “Adequate intake levels for water have been determined for generally healthy people and are based on age and sex. For women, the amount of total water is about 11.5 cups (91 ounces) per day and for men about 15.5 cups (25 ounces). These estimates, however, include fluids consumed from both foods and beverages, including water”.
1) What happens when you don’t get enough water? When water loss is greater than water intake, it can lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration can include headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness, flushed skin, increased body temperature, increased pulse, dry mouth, constipation, and dark urine. Dehydration can also affect your mood and your memory. When the body gets rehydrated, these symptoms are usually relieved. Severe dehydration can lead to more serious problems such as kidney failure, heart problems, and even death.
Dehydration can easily occur in the summer when people are engaging in more outdoor physical activity and experience increased sweating and respiratory water loss. Hydration needs can vary from one person to another and are often affected by heat and humidity as well as physical activity. A sedentary person's need for water is less than that of a person working or playing sports outdoors under high temperature environments.
2) How do you know you need more water? Relying on thirst to determine the need to drink may not be as reliable since the sensation of thirst may not kick in until you are already dehydrated or on the verge of it. In addition, the thirst sensation can decrease as we get older.
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3) What can you do to stay hydrated in the summer? Here are some tips to help you stay well-hydrated through the scorching summer heat:
- Choose fruits and vegetables that are high in water and contain electrolytes. These include melons, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, and other juicy fruits like peaches.
- Limit or avoid consuming alcohol which can be dehydrating. Try to drink some water when you drink alcoholic beverages to help minimize the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
- If you do not have a fluid, sodium, or potassium restriction, include some flavored electrolyte water or add electrolyte powder to your water. It not only adds flavor to water, but it also helps you retain water for longer periods of time.
- Add some interest to your water. Use water flavor enhancers or water already with flavor enhancers added in. There are lots of sugar-free options available at your local grocery stores.
- Infuse your water with fruits such as lemons, veggies like cucumbers, or herbs including mint. These make your water taste better and may encourage you to drink more.
- Make popsicles out of your favorite sugar-free beverage. Place your beverage in a blender along with some fresh or frozen fruit, cucumbers, and mint. Blend until thoroughly combined. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. A regular size popsicle provides approximately 2 ounces of fluids.
- Set a timer for an hourly schedule to remind you to drink water.
- Use apps such as Water Llama, Water Tracker, My Water, and others to track your fluid intake.
- Invest in a good water bottle that is durable, easy to clean, and can hold the desired temperature of your beverage for a long period of time. There are even water bottles with apps to help remind you to drink and measure how much fluid you are drinking.
- Try making drinking water a challenge or healthy competition between you and your friends or family to see who can meet their daily goals consistently.
So don’t wait to hydrate and go out there and enjoy the summer!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.