Summer is right around the corner with its long, hot days. Many of us will begin to spend more time outdoors whether it’s mowing the lawn, working in the garden, exercising, or just having fun. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, which means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should have. Dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe depending on how much fluid has been lost and not replenished. We need fluids to keep our bodies properly cooled. Without adequate fluids, we may experience muscle cramping, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
Adults need from 9 to 13 cups of total beverages, including water, per day. The amount needed depends on your age, gender, level of physical activity, altitude, and climate. During hot weather, you will need more. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink. By the time you feel thirsty, your body has already lost fluids and may already be dehydrated. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day. Plan to drink before going outdoors or exercising.
Water is the preferred beverage for staying hydrated, but juice drinks, tea, sports drinks, and soft drinks are all mostly water. However, you are often consuming excess calories with little nutritional benefits when you substitute them for water. Water is calorie free and replenishes lost fluids effectively.
Sport drinks have become very popular. They contain flavorings, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. They are designed to replace fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates during times of intense activity. The carbohydrates in sports drinks provide energy to working muscles. Sports drinks can be beneficial for athletes participating in competition, workouts or training for 60 minutes or longer, or exercising in hot climates or at high altitudes. However, there is no evidence to support the use of sports drinks for physical exertion of less than 60 minutes. They are not appropriate for those who are not engaging in athletics or manual labor. At around 100 calories for 16 ounces, sports drinks contain substantial calories and little in the way of nutrition. For the non-athlete, they are not much better than drinking soft drinks.
Our beverages of choice should be water, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit juice, with water making up the largest portion. Stay hydrated throughout the day without drinking too many calories. Enjoy the summer months, but be sure to take breaks, and drink plenty of water!