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Drink Up: Staying Hydrated

Some parts of the country haven't fully thawed from the tough winter, but with Memorial Day around the corner, I'm thinking summer! A big part of summer - staying cool and staying safe - comes down to proper hydration. So drink up!

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Poor hydration is a significant health risk, and the risks increase during the summer and during exercise. The main goal is to find that happy middle ground - prevent dehydration, but don't over-hydrate (yes, it it's a thing). Part of the confusion is that "adequate" means different things to different people.

What's a girl - or guy - to do?

1. Check your pee. Yup, it's that scientific. You're looking for the color of straw or lemonade, not apple juice. Don't forget that your multivitamin will temporarily darken your urine, as well. 

2. It's also good to be aware of how much you sweat. Some of us have more efficient cooling mechanisms than others. Yeah, yeah, that's what we'll call it. The more water that comes out your pores, the more you need to drink. 

You'll notice that I didn't include being thirsty. Obviously, that's a sign to seek out hydration. But it's a late symptom of the problem. Also, as we get older, our thirst perception changes. Older adults may not experience the feeling of thirst, despite being dehydrated.

How do you know if you're dehydrated?

First symptoms:

  • Thirst
  • Flushed skin
  • Fatigue, or the feeling that an activity takes more work than normal
  • Increase in body temp
  • Fast breathing and pulse rate

Later symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing

When someone loses more than 2% of their body weight due to sweat, it's considered dehydration. For a 150 pound person, that's 3 pounds. This might be obvious, but it's worth saying: when you weight yourself, don't have clothes on - your post-workout clothes are likely holding onto a good portion of that sweat loss. 

You have to actually drink it for your body to use it. This is why it's not the same thing to pour water over your head, as it is to take a sip. You can also get dehydrated when you're IN water. Swimming - whether competitively or playfully - is activity that causes sweat. It's important to drink water before and after being in the pool or ocean. 

Do I Need a Sports Drink?

If you're not engaging in strenuous exercise, NO! It's just added calories. However, if you're active at a moderate or high intensity for an hour or more, it is a good idea. However, if you find your clothes with salt stains, you might have different needs. 

Ugh, water is so boring. What other choices do I have?

Consider coconut water, which is more natural than a sports drink, with less calories. Just keep it unflavored and unsweetened. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of it, so I stick to water. But many people swear by it. Homemade flavored waters are a great choice. Cucumber water, anyone? A nice lemon or lime slice can also add a little intrigue. Or... you can try some of these hydrating foods.

Crisp Lettuce: 96% water (which is why it's so low in calories), and you also get potassium, folate and antioxidants. 

Watermelon: 91% water, and is a good source of vitamins A and C, lycopene, fiber and potassium

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Grapefruit: 90% water, a good source of vitamin C. Pink and red grapefruit also have vitamin A and lycopene.

Broccoli: 89% water (who knew??), and also a good source of vitamin C, calcium, fiber and iron. 

Lowfat Milk: 89% water, and has protein, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A and D. Yogurt is also high up there (85%), but as it gets strained (i.e. goes Greek) liquid is removed.