How to Stay Hydrated in the Heat?
Dehydration affects your mood, health and performance. While a high altitude and low humidity increase your risk, it’s especially important to replenish lost fluids during the hot summer months if you’re working in a sweltering studio or an outdoor theater. The negative effects have already begun for those who increase fluid intake based on thirst or a dry mouth. Find out how to gain the upper hand now on this common but easily curable problem.
Causes of Dehydration
It doesn’t take much to become dehydrated. The average person loses 10-15 cups of fluid each day just from sweat, urine, exhaled air, and bowel movements (diarrhea makes it worse). Exercise and summer heat increase the amount of fluid lost through excess sweat (i.e., the body’s natural cooling system). Lose 1.5 percent of your normal body’s water volume (e.g., 18 ounces in a 120 lb. female, or a little over a pint) and you start to suffer the symptoms listed below.
Even a mild case of dehydration can cause a decrease in coordination, fatigue, stress, headache and back pain, along with difficulties in memory, alertness and judgment. Losing as little as two percent of your body volume may cause dizziness and muscle cramps. Dehydration can also lead to weight gain by encouraging excess calorie consumption, slowing down metabolism, and affecting the body’s ability to burn fat. Last but not least, chronic dehydration may cause bloating and lead to health problems, such as high blood pressure, as the body attempts to hold on to its remaining water supplies. Heat exhaustion and even death in extreme circumstances are the end result of severe dehydration.
Thirst develops after your body fluids are depleted below the levels required for optimal functioning, whereas a dry mouth is the last outward sign of dehydration. The easiest way to detect if you’re becoming dehydrated is to monitor the color of your urine.
- Hydrated = clear or lightly colored
- Somewhat dehydrated = yellow
- Severely dehydrated = orange or dark colored
Prevention is the best defense against dehydration, given the serious repercussion on your health and performance.
To determine your general fluid requirements, you need to drink half your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, you should have about 50 ounces or approximately six eight-ounce glasses of fluid. People who exercise may need to drink more (e.g., nine cups for females and thirteen cups for males). Be aware that caffeinated drinks like coffee are only dehydrating if you drink five to seven cups a day. In contrast, energy drinks with 500-600 milligrams of caffeine will have a diuretic effect. Sports drinks with added sodium and potassium can restore electrolytes lost from intense exercise over ninety minutes.
Water is the most essential ingredient for life with many important functions, including regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, and transporting nutrients and waste products. You can customize a fluid replacement program during the hot summer months by weighing yourself before and after exercise to see how much liquid you need to ingest.
So drink up!