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Staying Hydrated, Staying Healthy

Staying Hydrated, Staying Healthy

cyclist view drinking from water bottle

When the temperatures rise, getting enough water is important whether you’re playing sports, traveling, or just sitting in the sun.

It’s critical for your heart health

Drinking enough water keeps the body hydrated, which helps the heart more easily pump blood through the body. It also helps muscles work efficiently. If you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

Dehydration means your body doesn’t have enough water, which can make you feel really thirsty and cause other problems such as dizziness, feeling tired, swollen feet, a headache or even life-threatening illnesses, such as heat stroke.

How much water do you need?

What does being well hydrated mean? The amount of water a person needs depends on the climate, clothing worn and exercise intensity and duration.

A person who sweats a lot will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean you need to drink more water. People with cystic fibrosis have a lot of salt in their sweat and also need to use caution to avoid dehydration.  Some medications can also act as diuretics, or water pills, making you to urinate more and lose more fluid. 

Thirst isn’t the best indicator that you need to drink. If you get thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. The easiest thing to do is pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, drink more fluids.

If you want to know exactly how much fluid you need, weigh yourself before and after exercise to see how much you’ve lost through perspiration. It’s a particularly good guide for athletes training in the hot summer months.

For every pound of sweat you lose, that’s a pint of water you’ll need to replenish. For example, it’s not unusual for a high school football player, wearing pads and running through drills, to lose 5 pounds or more of sweat during a summer practice.

Not sweating during vigorous physical activity can be a red flag that you’re dehydrated to the point of developing heat exhaustion. 

Water is best

For most people, water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. Some foods can be a source of water, such as fruits and vegetables. Sports drinks with electrolytes may be useful for people doing high-intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, though they tend to be high in added sugars and calories.

It’s healthier to drink water while you’re exercising, and then when you’re done, eat a healthy snack like orange slices, bananas or a small handful of unsalted nuts. Avoid fruit juices or sugary drinks, such as soda. They can be hard on your stomach if you’re dehydrated. It’s also best to avoid drinks containing caffeine, which acts as a diuretic and causes you to lose more fluids.  

Drinking water before you exercise or go out into the sun is an important first step. Otherwise, you’re playing catch-up and your heart is straining.

Not just for athletes or exercise

Hydration isn’t just important during physical activity. You also need to keep tabs on your water intake if you are:

  • Sitting in the sun on a hot or humid day, even if you aren’t exercising.
  • Someone with a heart condition.
  • Over age 50.
  • Overweight or obese.
  • Traveling. 

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