With record breaking heat scorching the Okanagan and the rest of British Columbia this year, we are reminded about the importance of proper hydration. The human body is roughly 60% water and the effects of dehydration can range from minor to severe (even fatal). As we become more active during the summer, staying hydrated becomes more challenging. Our bodies sweat more in the heat, not only during activity but even at rest. Outdoor activities especially have the potential to dehydrate the body quickly; thus, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration. In addition, employing good hydration practices will help you to maintain a healthy body ready for whatever summer may bring.
Why do we need to stay hydrated?
Most of our bodily functions depend on the proper balance between water and electrolytes to work correctly. Bodily functions that rely on the proper balance include nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Water helps also to regulate our body temperature, lubricate joints and helps carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells.
When to hydrate
If you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated! As soon as you start to exercise you begin to lose water right away. Aim to drink small amounts of fluid at regular intervals 125-250 ml every 10-20 minutes during exercise.
Isotonic (aka sports) drinks are not always necessary to keep hydrated; water is often enough. But for long duration sports or activities that require a high level of energy it may be a good idea to use sports drinks to recover and help replace lost electrolytes (aka salts) due to sweating.
Be careful though… Sports drinks are often loaded with extra sugar to make them more appealing.
Common symptoms of dehydration
- Less frequent urination
- Dry skin
- Dry mouth
- Increased heart rate and breathing
How much fluid should I drink?
The golden rule has always been eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day; but instead of tracking how much water you consume on a daily basis you can opt for a simpler rule:
Drink enough fluids so you go to the bathroom every two to four hours
And that the urine is a light straw colour. If your urine is very dark, that’s a sign that you haven’t had enough to drink.
Athletes and weekend warriors alike need more fluids to compensate for higher activity levels.
What counts as a fluid?
We have all heard that coffee dehydrates and while there is a diuretic effect from caffeine, the amount is mild compared to the amount of fluid they contain. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages count as taking in fluid. So what else would raise your daily hydration level? Soup, coconuts, yogurt and watermelon are all hydrating foods. Even an orange is 90% water, same with leafy greens found in salad. You don’t always have to drink to hydrate!
Can I drink to much water?
YES! Over-hydration (or Hyponatremia) is a condition in which the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. Over-hydration occurs when a person consumes too much water. This causes the cells in your body to swell. Swelling cells can cause many health problems from mild to severe, just like dehydration. Over-hydration has even been in the news for the past few years, after a study in the New England Journal of Medicine listed Hyponatremia as a serious health issue of some runners at the Boston Marathon.
Most of us do a pretty good job of getting adequate amounts of fluids as part of our everyday routine: coffee in the morning, water or juice with lunch, a glass of water in the afternoon, and water with dinner. The fluid we drink coupled with the water that makes up our food usually is sufficient. However if you are exercising or increasing your activity level (and you know you should be!), it is essential to increase your fluid intake!