Hopefully, you are finding yourself more active since the blazing summer heat is finally coming to an end. When it comes to hydrating for your favorite fall activities, what drink will you reach for? Water is typically the best choice, but all too often it is deemed “boring,” and many have a hard time accepting it as their main beverage source.
As far as fluid hydration goes, how much do we really need? In general, most need approximately half of their body weight in ounces. In other words, a 150-pound person needs about 75 ounces of daily hydration to meet his or her hydration needs. Others may need more than that if they are exercising heavily or working outdoors, which leads to a loss of electrolytes. On the flipside, those with kidney or heart failure may be advised to restrict fluids. In short, hydration is not “one size fits all.”
If you are an active person, learning about your hydration needs is a little more scientific. For optimal performance, and to help replenish the water that is lost, an athlete can estimate his or her “sweat rate” by using a scale before and after activity. Every pound lost during activity equals 16 ounces or two cups. To explain further, sweat rate = weight lost + fluid intake per hour of exercise. If a person does aerobics for an hour and loses one pound, but also drinks about a cup of water during activity, then his or her sweat rate is about two to three cups per hour. Sweat rate may change based on temperature, humidity and intensity of exercise. If duration is more than an hour, then sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade should be used for electrolyte and carbohydrate replacement. If less than an hour, water is the best choice. Furthermore, for long outdoor treks, plenty of water and snacks are essential, and it’s always good to take a little more than you need.
How can you tell if you are dehydrated? Typical signs may include fatigue, headache, dry or sticky mouth, dark urine, dizziness or lightheadedness, dry skin, constipation and/or nausea. As little as a 2 percent fluid loss can impair athletic performance as well. Next time you feel drowsy in the afternoon, don’t grab candy or soda to get a quick energy fix. Instead, first try a glass of water. Also, thanks to a poor thirst mechanism that about one-third of the population exhibits, it’s pretty common for our bodies to think we are hungry when we are really thirsty.
Try these simple sip tips to stay hydrated:
n Carry a container around to refill at water fountains. Remember all fluids count towards our total fluid needs. If you are trying to lose weight, it makes sense to minimize calorie- containing beverages like juices, sweet tea, coffee, and energy drinks or sodas.
n If you find yourself at the coffee pot all day, try alternating with water or decaffeinated herbal tea to help minimize the diuretic effects of caffeine.
n We can get some fluids through foods such as watermelon, tomatoes and soups; yet another reason to increase your intake fruits and veggies.
n Try cutting up oranges, lemons or limes to make flavor-infused water. A few ounces of juice also can give a pop of flavor without adding too many calories.
Heather Pierce is a registered dietitian with the Weight Management Center at Blount Memorial Hospital.