The Importance of Hydration During the Summer
By Melanie Baker, MS, RD, LDN
Bariatric Registered Dietitian at BIDMC
As the rain of spring clears and the sun finally makes an appearance, it’s time to partake in all of those outdoor picnics, beautiful hikes and perfect pool afternoons that you dreamed about all winter. But as the temperatures rise this summer, pay close attention to one important aspect of your health: your hydration.
The water we consume maintains blood pressure, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, moves waste out of the body, and aids in digestion. And with increased summer temperatures and outdoor activities comes increased water loss—through sweating and evaporation—as your body works to stay cool.
What If We Don’t Get Enough Water?
Most of us associate dehydration—when more water is moving out of our body than we are taking in—with muscle cramps, fatigue, headaches, and extreme thirst. Dehydration can affect your short-term memory and attention as well.
Other signs that you may be dehydrated include loss of appetite, dry mouth, mild constipation, and temporary lightheadedness. A good measurement of your level of hydration is the color of your urine. Pale urine (the color of straw) indicates adequate hydration while darker colored urine (the color of apple juice) is a sign that your body needs more fluids right away.
Ideas for Happy Hydrating
So how do we increase our water intake without feeling water-logged or sprinting to the bathroom every five minutes? Here are some tips for staying hydrated (and having fun doing it!) this summer:
- Make sure you drink enough. Recommendations vary depending on weight, age and activity level, but an easy one to remember is 8x8: 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water each day. Many experts recommend drinking to thirst—if you are thirsty, drink!
- Invest in a reusable water bottle. Skip throwaway plastic water bottles and buy a BPA-free refillable water bottle to help you track your water intake each day. If you’re mindful of keeping the bottle nearby, you’ll be much more likely to sip throughout the day; plus, if it’s insulated, it’ll keep your water nice and cool.
- Infuse with flavor. Whatever flavors you prefer, infusing your water with fresh fruit can make for a refreshing beverage, without any added artificial sweeteners or preservatives. Try crushed blueberries with basil, sliced cucumber and mint, or cubes of watermelon; place them in a pitcher full of water in the fridge for a few hours to release the most flavor, and drink it all day. You can also add any cut fruit and herb mix directly to your ice cube tray to make infused ice cubes.
- Drink before you eat. We all can relate to that late-afternoon “must have a snack” hungry feeling. Before reaching for the nearest source of calories, drink some water. Sometimes our brains confuse thirst with hunger, so next time the feeling strikes, hydrate before eating and your hunger “pains” just might disappear.
- Make a water schedule. If it feels impossible to guzzle down 64 ounces in a single day, you may want to come up with a hydrating schedule. As soon as you wake up, make it a point to drink 10 ounces of water—after a night of fasting, your body will appreciate a morning quencher. Drinking a predetermined number of ounces throughout the day (such as at meals, and before, during, and after a workout) can also keep you on track.
- Eat your way to hydration. All whole fruits and vegetables contain some amount of water, but munch on these top picks for maximum benefit:
- 97% water: Cucumbers
- 96% water: Celery
- 95% water: Tomatoes, radishes
- 93% water: Red, yellow & green bell peppers
- 92% water: Cauliflower, watermelon
- 91% water: Spinach, strawberries, broccoli
- 90% water: Grapefruit
- You can also freeze cucumber, melons, berries, grapes, or orange slices to munch on as a cold treat when it’s hot out, or use as ice cubes to flavor your water.
How to Make Hydration a Habit
Many people are so busy that they barely have time to eat, let alone pause for a water break, and you may find you often go hours without quenching your thirst. Here are some simple ways to make fueling up with fluid throughout the day a little easier:
- Always carry a water bottle, keep one at your desk at work, or keep one in your car. Having water close by makes it easier to continually sip.
- When you're feeling frazzled or hazy, grab a glass of cold water. Studies show that people instantly feel more alert after drinking H2O. It's a simple, healthy way to snap out of a midday slump.
- Sip a mug of herbal tea every evening. If you make this a habit, you'll add an extra cup of fluid to your tally every single day. On top of that, this relaxing ritual is a wonderful way to de-stress at the end of the day.
The key is to find something that works for you so you can get all the fluid your body needs throughout the day.
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