When the temperatures rise, getting enough to drink is important whether you're playing sports, traveling, or just sitting in the sun. Plus it's critical for your heart health.
Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently. Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.
The key to staying safe and healthy this summer is staying hydrated. Consider these 9 tips to keep summertime dehydration at bay.
Drink Water—and Plenty of It!
Drink plenty of fluids but avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, and high-sugar content as they might contribute to dehydration. Water should be your go-to drink because it’s calorie-free, low-cost, and readily available. Invest in a reusable water bottle to keep at your desk, in your car, or by the couch if it helps you drink more, and keep track of how much you’re consuming.
Eat Water-Rich Foods
If the thought of consuming a half-gallon or more of water every day turns you off, think beyond the water glass. While you should drink plenty of water every day, you can also eat your way to hydration to supplement your water intake. Choose high-water-content foods, such as peaches, grapes, oranges, melons, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, spinach, and lettuce. A salad with these water-rich ingredients can help keep you hydrated and be a healthy option for lunch.
All whole fruits and vegetables contain some amount of water, but munch on these top picks for maximum benefit:
- 97% water: cucumbers
- 96% water: celery
- 95% water: tomatoes, radishes
- 93% water: red, yellow, green bell peppers
- 92% water: cauliflower, watermelon
- 91% water: spinach, strawberries, broccoli
- 90% water: grapefruit
Know the Signs of Dehydration
Does your skin feel dry, irritated, inflamed, itchy, or sensitive? That’s a sign of dehydration. Experiencing a headache or feeling dizzy or fatigued? These are signs, too. Muscle cramps, rapid breathing, fainting, and not urinating (or having very dark yellow urine) are others. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, the simple solution is to get out of the heat and drink plenty of liquids.
Avoid Alcohol, Sugary Drinks, and/or Caffeine
Tricky fact—some liquids work against hydration! Drinks like coffee, sugary sodas, beer, wine and hard liquor, lemonade, sweet tea, energy drinks, smoothies, and flavored milk are all culprits. They are loaded with sugar, sodium, and other ingredients that remove water from your tissues.
Consider swapping some of these out daily or rehydrating with more water for each dehydrating drink you consume. Decaffeinated iced tea is also a good option in addition to water. If you are missing the carbonation from soda, consider swapping them out for sparkling water or seltzer.
Be Aware of Weather Conditions
Even if it is cloudy and breezy, hot summer temperatures can still cause water loss. After the sun goes down, while temperatures hover in the 70-to-80 degree range, your body will remain warm and need hydration when you are outside, regardless of whether you are working or sitting.
Consider the Level of the Activity
If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense exercise lasting more than an hour requires more fluid intake. How much additional fluid you need depends on how much you sweat and the duration and type of exercise.
Proper hydration isn’t just about drinking water—it’s about regulating your body temperature, too. During summer, when the risk for heat stroke is at its highest, wear light, loose-fitting clothing in light colors, schedule strenuous sports and physical activities during cooler times of the day, protect yourself from the sun with hats and other shade accessories, take drink breaks often, and mist yourself with a spray bottle if you become overheated.
Choose Water During Flights
Airports and flights can be very dehydrating. It’s not easy to drink as much as you usually do when you’re on the go for summer vacation, and airplanes are known for low-humidity air, which contributes to low hydration at touchdown.
Pack an empty reusable water bottle with you in your carry-on bag and then fill it up with water after going through security. You can easily add flavoring to enrich the taste whenever you want an extra boost of antioxidants. Skip the vending machines at the airport and ask for water when the beverage cart passes by mid-flight.
Consider a Probiotic
Our bodies are home to good and bad bacteria. They’re in our mouth, gut, and skin. Probiotics are living microorganisms found in yogurt and other cultured foods and supplements that can help improve your body’s bacteria. Taking a probiotic can help improve your immune system, protect against infection, and improve your digestion and absorption of food and nutrients—including water. Probiotics also help with several conditions associated with dehydration, including diarrhea.
For the healthiest gut biome:
- Eat fruits that are high in polyphenols, such as blueberries, apples, grapes, and mangos.
- Include fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, or leafy greens at every meal.
- Leave the peelings on your foods because that’s where most of the fiber and polyphenols are found.
- Get more resistant starch in your diet by cooking and cooling starch-based foods such as potatoes, rice, and beans.
- Consider taking a targeted probiotic supplement if you’ve been exposed to antibiotics.
The best way to beat the heat this summer is to stay hydrated. It doesn’t matter whether you are working outside, laying on the beach, or working out. You still need water to keep yourself from falling victim to heat-related illnesses.