Water serves vital roles in maintaining our health. Our blood is comprised largely of water and serves as a transport system that delivers nutrients to our cells and organs while removing waste through urine, perspiration and breath. Many chemical reactions that occur within our bodies also depend on water. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are broken down through hydrolysis reactions into smaller, more usable components such as amino acids and fatty acids.
Water is also vital in helping to maintain our body temperature. It enables the body to release heat when ambient temperature is higher than body temperature. The formation of sweat and the subsequent evaporation of water from the skin surface cools the body very efficiently.
But what if our water demands are exceeding the amount of water that we are taking in? When we lose just a mere 1 to 2 percent loss of body weight from water, we jeopardize our performance and ability to cool the body. This taxes our system as our hearts pumps harder, circulation slows and muscles fatigue more quickly. What if that loss creeps up to 3 to 4 percent? Now you’re in the danger zone for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and cramping.
Staying ahead of dehydration is key. Here are some tips to make sure your water levels are optimized.
- Check the toilet bowl. The color of your pee is probably the best way to determine whether you’re dehydrated. If it’s lighter in color and not odorous, you’re probably in the clear. But if it’s a deeper yellow or light orange, you’re most likely not getting enough water.
- Drink before you’re thirsty. Chances are if you’re feeling parched, you’re a little dehydrated.
- Track your intake. Need to know about how much you should be drinking? Divide your weight in pounds in half and drink the equivalent number of ounces every day. Ex. Weight is 160 pounds. Half of that is 80 pounds. Drink 80 ounces of water. But what if you’re working out or sweating a lot?
- Step on the scale. Weigh yourself before and after a workout. If the scale shows a loss, replenish it with water. If you’re down a pound on the scale, drink an additional 15 ounces of water.
- Take frequent water breaks with physical activity. Drink 8 to 10 ounces of water (about one full glass) before starting any activity. Once the games begin, drink another 7 to 10 ounces every 20 to 30 minutes.
- You may need more than water. Working out for more than an hour? Your body loses electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride when you sweat. Endura® is my go-to choice for replacing electrolytes and minerals lost through sweat.
- Eat your water. Lots of produce contains a ton of water. Reach for melon, berries, cucumbers, oranges, bell peppers, celery, and grapes.
Dehydration doesn’t just occur with increased physical activity. Mind your water intake when hanging out on the lake, taking in a game, or enjoying a summer BBQ. We aren’t the only ones that need to stay hydrated. Make sure that children and your pets get plenty of water intake as well. For more on the signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses, visit this Mayo Clinic page.