A doctor’s tips help you stay hydrated—and healthy—during the dog days of summer.
Run a mile in the hot sun and your body will tell you loud and clear: “Water needed!” But humans need to take in sufficient fluid—hydration, it’s called—even when we’re not panting and sweating profusely, and we don’t always get it. Adequate hydration, says the American Heart Association, is needed to make sure your heart can pump enough blood to the rest of your body. Extreme dehydration can cause problems such as heatstroke, a condition marked by very high temperatures, a cessation of sweating and collapse. How much water is enough? “On average, an adult should be drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day,” says Diane Schwartz, M.D., internal medicine physician at Englewood Health. (That’s a bit less than two liters.) “On hot summer days, that should increase to 12 8-ounce glasses, and if we are sweating a lot, such as during exercise, or if we have a fever, we need to increase our intake by one to two glasses daily.”
To make sure you’re properly hydrated:
- Keep a bottle handy. Having a container near or at your desk is a good way to remind yourself to sip. And “room temperature [fairly cool] water is easier to tolerate in large amounts than ice-cold water,” says Dr. Schwartz. You can also add flavor drops to your water if you like, she says. “You should do whatever you can to achieve your water goal.”
- Vary your liquids. We can fulfill our daily hydration goal by consuming drinks other than regular H20. “Many beverages can count toward our daily goal,” says the doctor, “but they must be non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic, as caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics.” (Diuretics help the body get rid of water.)
- Skip the sports drinks. Like non-diet sodas, these products deliver fluid with the excess baggage of considerable sugar and unneeded calories. The added electrolytes and minerals they also provide can have value for serious athletes engaged in vigorous exercise, but most of us don’t require them.
- When in doubt, check your pee. “If your urine is basically clear, you are adequately hydrated,” says Dr. Schwartz. “The darker the urine, the more you need to drink to correct it.”
H20 + Extra Zing
Need motivation to hydrate? Keep water cold and consider these healthy add-ins (besides flavored drops) for plain or carbonated water:
- a squeeze or slices of orange
- raspberries, blueberries or blackberries (can be frozen in advance)
- pineapple chunks
- mint sprigs
- grated fresh ginger
- a splash of unsweetened juice, such as cranberry