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Beat the Heat!

By Ben Smith, Lead Health Coach at Fitness Interactive Experience

Stay hydrated. It’s advice you hear often, particularly when the temperature is on the rise in the Summer. How much water do you need to drink to stay hydrated? What impact does dehydration (both mild and severe) have on your body? What’s an easy way to tell whether or not I’m properly hydrated? These are the questions I’ll attempt to answer in this article.

It’s helpful to know that every single cell in your body needs water in order to function properly. No matter who you are or how much you weigh, your body depends upon a fine balance of water and electrolytes to maintain functionality in your nervous system, cardiovascular system and muscular system. The fine balance can be impacted by as little as a 2% reduction in water mass within the body. When the loss of water mass exceeds 3-4% there are dramatic negative changes in your body’s ability to regulate temperature and maintain a regular heartbeat. Headache, inability to concentrate and fatigue are all indicators of mild dehydration. Symptoms become more severe as dehydration progresses: lower blood pressure, irregular or erratic heartbeat and increased core temperature.

Is there truly a one size fits all recommendation for hydration?

No, but I continue to recommend that most people strive to consume 8x 8oz glasses of water each day. Although people vary in height, weight, lean body mass and activity levels, I believe it’s a good general rule of thumb that would never be considered bad advice.

That being said, you can achieve hydration by means other than just water. Fruits, salads and other beverages all contain a significant amount of water. It’s just one more reason to add healthy nutrition choices like vegetables and fruits to your daily routine. Not only will they help keep you hydrated, but you’ve got the added benefit of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well.

Would someone ever need more than 8x 8oz glasses of water per day?

Yes! You probably lose more water than you think through sweating, so anyone who is exercising strenuously (hopefully you’re in this category!), or is outside during extreme heat will want to err on the side of “drink more.” It’s also possible to lose bodily fluids by other means, such as vomiting and diarrhea, so it’s important to consume water to make up for the water lost, especially when you’re under the weather.

What are some easy ways to monitor my hydration?

No matter who you are or how much you weigh, your body depends upon a fine balance of water and electrolytes to maintain functionality in your nervous system, cardiovascular system and muscular system.
“The Pee Test” is a tried and true rule of thumb. Take a look at the color of your urine. If you’re hydrated then your urine will either be clear or slightly yellow. If you’re dehydrated your urine will run the color wheel (by increasing levels of severity) from yellow to chardonnay colored to orange and finally to brown.

The only exception to this rule is if you’re consuming vitamins (alien ooze green, anyone!?!) If you are, you may be hydrated but your urine can be a vibrant color.

Any other easy indicators of dehydration?

Pinch the skin on the back of your hand and raise it up 0.5-1.0 centimeters. If it springs back into place in a couple of seconds, you’re good. If it takes longer, get some H2O!

What about water temperature? How cold should the water be?

Although an ice-cold beverage may seem to be more refreshing, it actually hinders your ability to stay hydrated. Before it can be absorbed, that water has to be heated up to body temperature, so for the quickest route to hydration, stick with room temperature to start with.

Hopefully, the tips and tricks mentioned above will help you beat the heat this summer and stay hydrated!