Staying hydrated is vital for your health. Follow these tips to avoid dehydration during exercise or hot summer days.
By Lisa MacDonald
Staying hydrated is important for athletic performance, cognitive ability as well as weight loss. With the warm weather, it’s important to be more mindful of dehydration, which is the lack of sufficient water in the body. Water keeps the body from overheating, and when you exercise your body generates heat. Sweating is the process that cools the body through evaporation and also reduces the body’s fluid level. If fluids are not being consumed to offset the fluids lost through sweating, then normal body functions are affected. Some side effects include weakness, muscle cramping, confusion and slowed reaction times.
How to Avoid Dehydration
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, active people should drink at least 16-20 ounces of fluid one to two hours before an outdoor activity to avoid dehydration. After that, you should consume 6 to 12 ounces of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes that you are outside. When you are finished with the activity, you should drink more to replace what you have lost: at least another 16 to 24 ounces (or 2 to 3 cups).
One way to make sure you are properly hydrated is to check your urine. If it’s clear, pale or straw-colored, it’s OK. If it’s darker than that, keep drinking!
What to Drink
Not all beverages are created equal! Water is the the best way to stay hydrated unless you are active or sweating for over an hour. In that case, you also need to replace the electrolytes (sodium and potassium), which are lost through perspiration. Muscle cramping may be due to a deficiency of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. There are numerous electrolyte replacement beverages on the market, and choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Here are my top choices:
1. Coconut Water
Coconut water has naturally occurring minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, selenium, iodine, sulfur and manganese. These minerals re-hydrate and create balance in the body. Coconut water also contains antioxidants, phytonutrients, natural enzymes and naturally occurring vitamins.
Not all coconut water beverages are created equally. Some drinks may have been pasteurized and heated, some contain mystery ingredients, some contain added juices and flavors. There are many different coconut water options so make sure to read the ingredients list and the nutrition label to ensure optimal health. Harmless Harvest and Naked Organic are my two top picks!
2. Watermelon Water
Watermelon water boasts six times the amount of electrolytes of a standard sports drink, and it includes benefits such as vitamin C, lycopene and antioxidants. The electrolyte minerals in watermelons include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. Make your own by blending the flesh and white rind of a watermelon with a touch of lemon juice.
3. Homemade Beverages
Citrus foods such as lemon, lime, and orange offer electrolytes and are great to add to any drink. Bananas are filled with potassium, along with additional electrolyte minerals and vitamins. Vegetable such as celery, kale and cucumber are also refreshing sources of natural hydration and taste great with a natural sweetener. Try creating your own hydrating drink using these natural sources.
Why did Gatorade not make the list? It is processed, high in sugar and contains unnatural ingredients. One bottle of G Series Thirst Quencher orange Gatorade, which is 12-fluid ounces contains a total of 52.5 grams of sugar! (The label states that the bottle contains 2.5 servings and 21 grams of sugar per serving. Therefore, a total of 52.5 grams of sugar.) It also contains processed ingredients such as natural flavor, gum arabic, sucrose acetate isobutyrate, glycerol ester of rosin and yellow 6 (yellow food dye).
Maintaining proper hydration is important, whether you are exercising, sweating profusely, or outdoors for a long period of time. Always be conscious of your water consumption and drink even when you are not thirsty!
Lisa MacDonald founded Franklin-based Fitness Driven with the mission to provide world-class health and wellness services to her clients. A fitness and nutrition specialist, Lisa professes the importance of eating whole foods and is often found creating new recipes to suit her healthy lifestyle. Combining her knowledge of exercise science, athletic conditioning, pilates and nutrition, Lisa creates unique programs that are tailored to meet the goals and specific needs of each individual.