We are just one month into summer and everyone is reminding everyone else to drink water. After all, I live in a desert, and summer temps can be hot as Hades. And while the focus on being properly hydrated is stressed by everyone including the news media, this question came up between me and a friend a few days ago: Can you drink too much water?
I thought I’d pose this question in a Quick Reader Poll to get a fast response on how savvy my readers are. While you are answering the question, ask yourself two more questions: a) How much is too much water? and b) Is it more than eight (8) glasses a day?
While we are waiting for answers, Katherine Tallmadge, author, speaker and contributor to several media sources including Live Science, the Washington Post and Politico, offers some great tips to stay hydrated as summer temperatures rise [Ref 1]:
- Drink enough water to prevent thirst.
- Monitor fluid loss by checking the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow and not dark yellow, too smelly or cloudy.
- For short-duration (less than 60 minutes), low-to-moderate-intensity activity, water is a good choice to drink before, during and after exercise.
- Any time you exercise in extreme heat or for more than one hour, supplement water with a sports drink that contains electrolytes and 6 percent to 8 percent carbohydrates. This prevents “hyponatremia” (low blood sodium), which dilutes your blood and could also lead to serious impairment and death.
- Begin exercise well-hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and within the hour before, during and after your exercise session.
- Avoid alcohol the day before or the day of a long exercise bout, and avoid exercising with a hangover.
- Consider all fluids, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups (though excluding alcohol, which is extremely dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, according to the most recent report by the National Research Council’s Food and Nutrition Board.
- Eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables per day for optimum health, as they all contain various levels of water and the all-important nutrient potassium.
- During exercise, for those who experience high sodium losses, eat salty foods in a pre-exercise meal or add an appropriate amount of salt to sports drinks consumed during exercise. Orange juice is high in potassium. Dilute juices, such as V-8 or orange juice, 50/50 with water so that the drinks are 6 percent carbohydrate solutions (the same as sports drinks), which will empty from your stomach quicker than 100 percent juice (juices are naturally 12 percent solutions), allowing the electrolytes and water to quickly reach your heart and organs.
- Following strenuous exercise, you need more protein to build muscle, carbohydrates to refuel muscle, electrolytes to replenish what’s lost in sweat, and fluids to help rehydrate the body. Low-fat chocolate milk is a perfect, natural replacement that fills those requirements.
- You can also replace fluid and sodium losses with watery foods that contain salt and potassium, such as soup and vegetable juices.
- For long hikes, when you’ll need food, dried fruit and nut mixtures contain high amounts of potassium, sodium, protein, carbs and calories — though continue to drink plenty of water.
- To determine your individualized need for fluid replacement: During heavy exercise, weigh yourself immediately before and after exercise. If you see an immediate loss of weight, you’ve lost valuable water. Drink 3 cups of fluid for every pound lost; use this figure to determine the amount of water (or sports drink) you’ll need to drink before and during your next exercise session to prevent weight/water loss in the future.
Here’s to being well hydrated during the dog days of summer!
- 13 Tips for Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat (Op-Ed), by Katherine Tallmadge for Live Science Health, July 20, 2013,http://www.livescience.com/38553-staying-hydrated-in-the-heat.html