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Why and How to Stay Hydrated

The heat is on! It’s been relentless here in Missouri over the past couple of months, and summer is really just getting started. High temperatures and high humidity mean lots of sweating, which makes proper hydration even more important. Here’s why and how to stay hydrated.

Why Hydrate

Water accounts for 50-60% of our total body mass, and it serves a vital role. While we can go weeks without food, we can only survive for a few days without water. Water is used to regulate body temperature, get rid of waste, keep the bowels moving, protect internal organs, and lubricate joints.

Dehydration can make the blood thicker which makes it more difficult for the blood to flow through the body. Oxygen and energy delivery becomes less efficient; and this can give you headaches and make you feel tired, sluggish, or faint. If dehydration gets severe enough, it can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke.

How Dehydration Happens

While dehydration can occur at any time of the year, the risk does become higher in the summer. As the body releases sweat in an attempt to cool you down, you lose water. If this water isn’t replaced, dehydration can happen quickly. Adequate fluid intake is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people working or playing in hot conditions, as well as for young children and the elderly.

Most fluids and even some foods like fruits and vegetables contribute to our daily fluid needs, but it’s best to limit those with caffeine, alcohol, or a lot of sugar. These drinks aren’t very effective for hydration. In most cases, water is your best choice. Keep a reusable water bottle with you, and drink from it throughout the day.

How to Stay Hydrated

urine chart from UT

Thanks to UT coach Tom Herman for the funny but true urine chart image.

Everyone has heard the recommendation to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Some may have heard of using a fancy calculation involving your body weight. The truth is fluid needs vary from person to person and can change under different conditions, so the best rule of thumb is to drink when you are thirsty and monitor the color of your urine. If it is the color of pale lemonade or lighter, you are well-hydrated. However, if it looks more like apple juice, you should probably drink up.

Over at the University of Texas, football coach Tom Herman insists that his players monitor their urine color. This is the funny-but-true urine color chart that he has posted for them.

Tips to Drink More Water

If you have trouble drinking enough water throughout the day, or if you don’t care much for the taste of water, here are a few tips:

  1. Add some flavor to your water with fruits and or herbs. Try a squeeze of citrus (lemon, lime, or orange), a sprig of mint, or use frozen berries in place of ice cubes.
  2. Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator, and use an insulated water bottle so your water is always cold.
  3. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to drink water at different intervals throughout the day.
  4. Get a water bottle you like, and take it with you everywhere.
  5. Load up on raw fruits and vegetables as well as other foods with high water content like soup and yogurt.
  6. Get a water filter if you don’t like the taste of your tap water. A filter will help take away chemical tastes, leaving you with fresh tasty water.
  7. Mark your water bottle with deadlines. Make it a goal to drink so much water by 10 am, noon, 3 pm, etc.
  8. Dilute fruit juice by adding water. This cuts down on the sugar, yet still keeps the flavor.

Drink Up!

We may not think much about it unless we are really thirsty, but water is crucial for our health and well-being. Good hydration keeps the body running smoothly. Drinking plenty of water is a great way to take care of your body, and it may even keep you from overeating. If you struggle to drink enough water, make a commitment today. Get a reusable bottle that you love, fill it with water, and don’t leave home without it!

Sarah Wood, the author of this article, is available to speak to groups or hold classes on a variety of health-related topics such as nutrition, physical activity, healthy cooking, stress management, and wellness. To schedule an event or get more information, call 816-279-1691 or email woodsarah@missouri.edu.

How do you stay hydrated? Share your tricks with us in the comments below. 

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About Sarah Wood

Sarah Wood is a registered dietitian with a Master's Degree in Applied Health Sciences. Currently, she is a Nutrition and Health Education Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. When taking time for herself, she runs, travels, and creates art.

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