Fitness Facts: Hydration
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
The summer heat is upon us! That means it is time to talk about hydration again. It is extremely important to be prepared before you venture out.
Why is hydration so important and how much do we really need?
Well, it’s important because we need fluids to stay alive. Without it, the body shuts down.
Drinking fluids serves a range of purposes in our bodies, such as removing waste through urine; controlling body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure; and maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Most people aren’t aware that the body is only one or two percentage points away from a problem. As little as a 2% decrease in body water can lead to dehydration and performance detriments in sports. When your water levels decrease by higher levels like 3% or 4%, there are physiological changes that occur that may have health consequences, such as increased heart rate and body temperature.
But how much should I drink?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “No single formula fits everyone. But knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.”
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.
You may need to modify these recommendations based on several factors:
- If you do any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to cover the fluid loss. It’s important to drink water before, during and after a workout. If exercise is intense and lasts more than an hour, a sports drink can replace minerals in your blood (electrolytes) lost through sweat.
- Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional fluid intake. You also may become more easily dehydrated at higher elevations.
- Your body loses fluids when you have a fever, are vomiting or have diarrhea. Drink more water or follow a doctor’s recommendation to drink oral rehydration solutions. Other conditions that might require increased fluid intake include bladder infections and urinary tract stones.
To prevent dehydration and make sure your body has the fluids it needs, the Mayo Clinic suggests that water should be your beverage of choice. A good rule of thumb is:
- Drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal.
- Drink water before, during and after exercise.
- Drink water if you’re feeling hungry. Thirst is often confused with hunger.
Signs of dehydration include thirst, decreased urination, dry skin, fatigue, lightheadedness and weakness.
But don’t wait until you start experiencing symptoms. Prevent dehydration by drinking water daily and frequently. If you know you will be attending an event outside, pre-hydrate the day before.
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