Summer Heat and the Benefits of Adequate Water Consumption

By Sharon Lewis

Summer is the time of year when you find the highest number of people outside enjoying the weather. The warmth offers a much-needed break from the cold. When the heat index rises, there are certain precautions that one should take to ensure safety. The heat index is a measurement indicating the level of discomfort the average person experiences as a result of the combined effects of the temperature and humidity of the air. One important factor to consider is proper hydration. Very few people drink enough water. Our bodies are 60-70% water and need to be continuously hydrated for optimal functionality.

Remember when we were younger, we were told that we needed to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water daily. That adds up to 64 ounces. For some that would be enough, for others too much, and for some not enough. The amount of water that is needed to adequately hydrate the human body depends on size/weight and activity level. To determine the amount of water you should drink daily, take your weight and multiply it by 67%. The chart below will give you some idea of approximately how much you should drink daily.

Weight               Ounces of Water Daily

100 pounds         67 ounces

120 pounds         80 ounces

140 pounds         94 ounces

160 pounds        107 ounces

180 pounds        121 ounces

200 pounds        134 ounces

220 pounds        148 ounces

240 pounds        161 ounces

What Should I Drink?

A recent Harvard University Study says sparkling water, juice, milk, tea, coffee, smoothies, and even soda and diet soda are acceptable. “However, the best and most affordable option is always plain water. And it’s better for your body than other beverages.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that we can count caffeinated beverages in the total as their diuretic effect is negligible in overall fluid loss.

For those who exercise, you should add about 12 ounces of water to your daily intake for every 30 minutes that you exercise. For example, if you work out for 30 minutes, add 12 ounces. If you exercise for 45 minutes, add 18 ounces. If you have a more intense exercise routine and sweat for upwards of 60-75 minutes or more, that is when you should consider an electrolyte replacement drink like Gatorade. Electrolyte replacement is not necessary for low-level or moderate exertion. You can even drink water and have a salty snack like mixed nuts after a more intense workout to help rehydrate. As the heat index increases, you may need even more water based on how much you sweat.

Strategies to Help You Drink More Water

When you consider the number of ounces of water that you should drink in a day, it may seem like an impossible task. Many fitness/diet experts suggest drinking 8-16 ounces when you get up in the morning. You have been sleeping for 4-8 hours without taking in fluid, so when you wake up each morning you are working on a deficit. Others recommend two cups of water before each meal, which will curb your appetite. There are times when we mistake hunger for thirst. So, if you think you are hungry, have a glass of water first. Also, consider adding a glass of water to your nighttime routine. Add flavor to your water if that makes it more palatable. There are quite a few products on the market to liven up that tasteless beverage. Even adding fruit or vegetables to your water can give it flavor. You can also eat and still consume water—many fruits like watermelon and vegetables like cucumbers are high in water content though it is hard to measure their fluid levels.

Can You Drink Too Much Water?

The answer is yes. Drinking too much water can cause water poisoning or water intoxication. This is a condition where a person drinks too much water in a short period, resulting in a cellular imbalance. The cells have a reduced percentage of sodium due to the excess water causing impaired function. Extreme cases can be life-threatening. The NIH does not recommend drinking more than 27-33 ounces of water in an hour.

Is There a Minimum Amount of Water That You Should Drink?

Consumption of the minimum amount of water is different for everyone and depends on your age, diet, activity level, and general state of health. Try to consume enough that you do not exhibit signs of dehydration.

Signs of Dehydration

  • Feeling tired and or weak
  • Dry mouth, eyes, or lips
  • Flushed or red skin
  • Rapid breathing and/or heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • A sensation of thirst (If you are thirsty you are already dehydrated)
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • The rise in body temperature
  • Chills
  • Clammy skin
  • Dark yellow/brownish colored urine with a strong smell (Can also be caused by other medical conditions, medications, and eating certain foods)

To be successful on your path to adequate hydration, you must prepare. Find a container that holds all or a portion of the amount of water you should drink in a day. Take the container with you where ever you go and take a drink every 15-20 minutes. It only takes 21 days to make a new habit, so the sooner you start the better off you will be.

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