Drink Up and Stay Cool
By: Tara DelloIacono Thies
Summertime is upon us and unless you’re in the San Francisco fog (like me) or a Montana summer snow storm, it’s getting hotter. Hot days and warm nights mean we can finally stop hibernating and start enjoying all of our favorite outdoor activities like surfing, biking, gardening, hiking, or walking on the beach. No matter what your summer pleasure, one thing is for sure—you need to stay hydrated.
Are you thirsty? Well, get a drink. It’s that simple. Without enough fluid, your brain and muscles function like squeaky gears on a bike. Lack of energy, concentration, focus, and even feelings of hunger indicate that your body needs fluid.
The amount of fluid you need to stay hydrated is the subject of great debate. The validity of the “eight glasses” of water per day recommendation is under scrutiny. Also, hydration needs vary from person to person so most health agencies shy away from putting a stake in the ground about how much water we need. The National Institute of Health, however, provides a general guideline that equates to about eight, 8-ounce glasses per day of fluid.
This may be too much or too little for you depending on your activity level, environment, diet, and body size. The eight-glasses-a-day guideline is a good jumping off point, but you should adapt how much you drink each day based on where you are, what you’re doing, and how you feel.
Here are some suggestions on how you can modify what you drink depending on your activity and your sweat level:
Reading a book on the beach
- Less than one hour: Water should do.
- 1-2 hours: Add some flavor to your water with a splash of juice or fruit slice.
- More than two hours: Enjoy ice tea with lemon.
Walking or light hiking
- Less than one hour: Water should do.
- 1-2 hours: Continue drinking water but refresh with a glass of lemonade.
- More than two hours: Continue drinking water. Get some electrolytes from a sports drink.
Trail running in the hills
- Less than one hour: Drink 8 oz. of water before heading out and 8 oz. of a sports drink when you return.
- 1-2 hours: Drink 6-8 oz. of fluid every 15 minutes. Alternate sports drinks and water.
- More than two hours: Add a recovery drink providing protein and calories after you’re done.
You can hydrate by consuming a variety of fluids, from plain water to iced tea. Food such as fruit, soup, and yogurt also contribute to your water tank. In fact, water alone isn’t the best hydrator for all occasions. While water should always be part of your daily mix, a flavor-enhanced water such as those infused with mint or citrus or a sports drink may provide you with better hydrating power if you’re sweating a lot. Whatever your needs, there are lots of options to fill them.
If flavored water with fewer calories is what you’re after, consider one of these refreshing options:
- Water with lemon or cucumber
- Sparkling water with a splash of juice
- Iced non-fat latte
- Mango tea over ice
If a sports drink is up your alley, look for one that provides a balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), and between 80-160 calories per water bottle. You will also want to find a sports drink that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or preservatives. These ingredients are not natural and may cause stomach upset.
Sports drinks are useful because they provide you with both carbohydrates and sodium. Carbohydrates, in the form of simple sugars, glucose, fructose, and sucrose help your body absorb water more efficiently. Sodium is an essential electrolyte that keeps your body in fluid balance. We lose a lot of sodium when we sweat and sports drinks are formulated to help replace it.
Whether you’re in a blanket of fog warming up with hot tea, or replentishing electrolytes after a triathlon, finding the right drinks for the right occasions will help keep you hydrated—this summer and throughout the year.
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