Summer months bring many outside activities to the forefront of our lives. Our days are filled with hours by the pool or at the beach, yardwork, outdoor concerts, sporting events, and BBQs. All of which have us sitting in the heat of the day and/or enjoying a few adult beverages causing us to lose more fluids than other times of the year when temperatures are cooler.
Dehydration is caused by a lack of sufficient fluids in one’s body and its symptoms can be different for everyone. One common sign of dehydration is dark urine (it should be the color of lemonade). Other signs can include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, constipation, muscle cramps, skin problems, low blood pressure and rapid heart rate. Chronic dehydration can cause kidney stones and potentially organ failure. So how much water does one need during the summer months?
Studies vary on water consumption recommendations namely because there are several factors that contribute to personal hydration needs. One’s current health status is the most overwhelming factor to water consumption – medications taken, diet and activity level all play a significant role as does one’s location. Living in an area with higher temperatures and humidity causes the body to work harder to remain cooler, which means sweating more, and in turn losing more fluids. Therefore, the old adage of eight glasses of 8 ounces of water may not be enough. According to some studies, one should drink half their weight in water. For example, if you weigh 180lbs, you need 90 ounces of water. Other studies indicate that 64 ounces is a place to start adding 6-12 ounces for every 10-15 minutes of exercise in addition to 20 ounces prior to the workout and another additional 10 ounces after the workout. However, all studies note that consuming water and water dense foods throughout the day is the best way to prevent dehydration. Further, eating water dense foods can also help regulate the salt content in the blood stream preventing other medical emergencies.
Luckily, many water dense foods are in season during the summer months. By eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, people naturally consume a significant amount of water. Foods with water content greater than 95% include cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, celery, and radishes. Other foods that are 90% or more are watermelon, strawberries as well as other berries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, baby carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and star fruit. Oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits as well as peaches are just below 90% water content. Many of these water dense foods also help to cool the body so are great snacks for the beach, pool, or at a BBQ. Additionally, bananas allow for more water consumption so paired with other fruits, help keep the body hydrated. Finally, if you are going to consume an alcoholic beverage, trying mixing it with coconut water which is 95% water and will help counterbalance the dehydrating effects of the alcohol.
As the hottest weeks of the summer are yet to come, get into the habit now of carrying around that water bottle and packing snacks that will aid in water consumption. If you are already thirsty or your urine is dark, you are showing the first signs of dehydration and it’s time to increase your fluids throughout the day. Talk to your healthcare provider about your specific needs and while you wait for your appointment take into consideration the variables that may be affecting your water needs – your health, activity levels, whether you exercise or work outside, and where you live. Staying well-hydrated will allow you to make more memories with your loved ones during these brief summer months!
Written by Kelly Reising who is passionate about nutrition, fitness and health.
Dr. Mc Millan is a Board-Certified orthopedic sports medicine surgeon practicing in the Virtua Health System of south Jersey. For more information please visit www.drseanmcmillan.com or follow us on twitter @sportsdrsean.