Summer and sweat seem to go hand-in-hand. Longer days mean more exposure to the sun and the hotter temps can lead to dehydrated bodies.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to avoid this and keep your body properly hydrated this summer (and year around).
We spoke with Dr. Ronald Navarro, Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center, and got his take on why staying hydrated is so important.
Q: How much water do people need each day?
Dr. Ronald Navarro: The most agreed upon recommendation is to drink six or eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. However, some adults may need more or less, depending on their overall health (certain illnesses and/or medications may affect this need), how much they exercise and the level of intensity, and how hot and dry the weather is.
Q: How many people on average, are dehydrated?
Dr. R.N.: Some polls have reported that up to 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. Anecdotally, we see the rate of dehydration be higher in the summer and fall when temperatures are higher and perspiration or sweating is more pronounced.
Q: On a micro level, why is hydration important?
Dr. R.N.: Water is a basic need for cellular health. Cells contain water and are surrounded by water. In dehydration, cell membranes become less permeable, hampering the flow of hormones and nutrients into the cell and preventing waste products that cause cell damage from flowing out.
Q: On a macro level, why is hydration important?
Dr. R.N.: When we exercise, our bodies cool off by sweating. As we perspire, we lose necessary body fluids. If we do not replace these fluids, we become dehydrated. This makes it difficult to sweat and cool down, which can result in a heat injury.
How Hydration Effects the Body
- Our muscles become more relaxed: This increases our energy, and in the cases of athletes, leads to better performance.
- Can help control weight: We often mistake thirst for hunger. Proper hydration can serve as an appetite suppressant and help with weight loss or weight management.
- It’s easier to go to the bathroom: People who drink enough water usually have regular bowel movements. Hard bowel movements or constipation can be a sign that you aren’t getting enough water (or fiber).
- Can improve the color and texture of our skin, thus giving us a healthier (younger) appearance: Our skin, the largest organ in our body, relies on water to produce new cells and give us that glow. Our skin also needs water to do its job of regulating the body’s temperature.
Tips to Help Stay Hydrated
- Start off your day with a glass of water – if getting a cup of coffee or tea is part of your morning routine, add this extra step to it.
- Always keep a cup or water bottle by your desk at work. Take several sips of water each hour, and when hunger strikes, take a sip first. We often confuse thirst for hunger.
- Add some flavor to your water: If you get tired of drinking plain water, add fresh fruit, a slice of lemon or lime or even a packet of sugarless flavoring to your water.
- Drinking sparkling water is just as hydrating as drinking regular water and can help wean a person off carbonated sodas which have their own well-documented issues.
Nutrition and Hydration
Understandably, water plays a huge role in keeping our bodies hydrated, healthy, and better functioning when we add some extra H2O to our daily diet.
But if you’re not a fan of chugging water throughout the day, there are other options available to you. Here’s a list of seasonal fruits and vegetables that help hydrate our body provided by Nadia Borchardt, Registered Dietician at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center.
Cucumbers are about 97% water, making them the food with the highest water content. In addition to providing the body with hydration, they also aid in eliminating toxins from the body and are a great source of magnesium and potassium. You can enjoy them in salads or as a snack.
Watermelon is considered a food rich in nutrients and low in calories. About 95% of its content is water and it’s full of electrolytes, which helps prevent dehydration. In addition, watermelon contains a large amount of vitamins A, B6 and C, minerals and antioxidants. Watermelon contains the highest level of lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable. Lycopene is considered a powerful antioxidant that can help protect the body’s cells from harm.
Strawberries are made of 92% water. They are low in calories and like other berries, are rich in antioxidants, vitamins B and C, calcium and potassium.
Iceberg lettuce is made of 96% water. Not only will it help quench our thirst, but it will also satiate our hunger.
Peaches contain approximately 88% water. They are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin C and choline, all substances that support our heart health.
Spinach is about 92% water, making it especially beneficial in keeping you hydrated. Spinach is also rich in magnesium, potassium, and B-vitamins, all of which are known to increase energy.
Celery has a water content of about 95%. It also has natural salts that help to replenish levels of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc in the body.
Questions provided by Mayra Suarez, Senior Media Relations Representative at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.