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Hydration 101

As the days get sunnier and longer, everyone is looking forward to spending some time outside and enjoying the warm weather. Summer is usually when people go for nice long strolls in the park, play baseball games with friends and have some fun. Before you step outside make sure you protect yourself from the heat. People are slowly getting into the habit of using sunscreen every day but they forget about hydration. Our bodies need water for temperature regulation, protection of vital organs and joints, digestion, and to help get rid of waste through urine, perspiration and bowel movements. The amount of water you need is dependent on temperature, level and length of exercise, clothing, heat acclimatization (increasing your need for fluids) and airflow.

It is recommended that you drink six to eight glasses of water every day. Don’t forget, if you are in hot temperatures for long periods of time or exercising you need more fluids to stay hydrated. The American Council on Exercise advises the following steps to keep hydrated before, during and after exercise.

  • Drink water (two to two and a half cups) two to three hours before exercise
  • Drink another 8 ounces (1 cup) of fluid 30 minutes prior to exercise
  • Keep hydrated during your workout by drinking fluid (1 cup) every 15 minutes
  • Immediately after (within 30 minutes) drink an additional cup of fluids
  • Weigh yourself before and after exercise and drink two to three cups of fluid for every pound you lost during training.

Every percentage of body weight you loose through sweat, urination and respiration will directly affect the volume of the blood contained in your body. When the blood volume is decreased your body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles is reduced, directly affecting your performance and stamina.  Additionally, your heart has to work harder to move your blood which causes muscle cramps, fatigue, exhaustion and mild confusion. If you become dehydrated your body is unable to cool itself down, leading to heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke. The big mistake most people make is waiting until they feel thirsty to have a drink, but by then it is too late, you are already dehydrated.  If adequate water is not consumed every day you may experience physical illnesses, and in extreme cases – it can be life-threatening.

What is the best thing to drink during hot summer days?

Water: This is the most natural, calorie free, and best choice for keeping hydrated. The only down side that to water is to some, the taste is bland. For them, we say jazz it up by adding a wedge of lime or lemon, cucumber slices, mint leaves or a dash of concentrated chlorophyll!

Sport drinks: Sport drinks are full of sugar, electrolytes (sodium, potassium and chloride) to help replenish calories and mineral imbalances that occur after intense exercise. Some also contain caffeine to stimulate the central nervous system or branched chain amino acids (BCAA) that can be used as fuel during exercise. Even though these drinks are mass-marketed to the general public, they are only helpful for athletes that exercise at high intensity for more than one hour at a time. They should never be consumed as an everyday drink.

Juice: For many, juice is a favourite, but even though it may be nutritious (full of vitamins and minerals), it is packed with sugar, which reduces water absorption. Eating whole fruit is healthier because it contains more fibre and nutrients than just the juice.

Soft drinks: Generally, carbonated soft drinks offer little nutritional value while adding extra inches to your waistline. The acids used to carbonate and flavour these beverages will damage teeth and may even weaken bones.

Coffee and tea: Drinks that contain caffeine should be avoided before and during exercise since they have mild diuretic properties (if taken in moderation), which increase fluid loss. People usually consume caffeine for the spike in energy, but vitamin B or ribose are healthier natural choices.

Alcohol: Many people will come up with the perfect excuse to head to the bar to get a nice cold beer after a game, but alcohol dehydrates. If you end up at the pub make sure you balance any alcohol consumption with water, ounce for ounce.

Be careful this summer and keep hydrated. Try carrying a bottle of water if you are going outside for a long period of time. Also, keep an eye on children, the elderly, workers and athletes since these people have a higher risk for heat related illness.


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