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Monday, June 28, 2021

Beating the Heat

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Dehydration can occur in nearly every physical activity

With the start of summer and temperatures on the rise here in Louisiana, it’s essential to keep hydrated. We need proper hydration for countless body systems like digestion, absorption of nutrients, exercise recovery, brain function and a healthy immune system. Here are five simple strategies to get hydrated and stay hydrated:

Drink water — and plenty of it!

How much water do we really need? Many of us need more than the popular recommendation of “eight, eight-ounce cups per day.” The recommended “adequate intake” of fluid is 3.7 liters (around 15 cups) per day for men and 2.7 liters (about 11 cups) per day for women. My general recommendation is based on body weight, aiming for at least half of our body weight in ounces of fluid — plus another 16 ounces for each pound of sweat lost during exercise, work in the heat, or Louisiana, just walking around outside. However, fluid intake is highly individualized based on activity needs, health conditions and even medication intake.

Hydrate with food

While drinking water is vital, we can also hydrate by eating certain foods. Foods like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, lettuce, peaches, oranges, cucumber, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, skim milk and even yogurt contain high water contents to aid in hydration. So adding some of these foods to our water can also help mix things up, and they can be eaten, too. Though I wouldn’t advise adding yogurt to water unless that sounds good to you — in which case, go for it, but not around me, please.

Know the signs of dehydration

Dehydration can occur in nearly every physical activity scenario; it doesn’t have to be hot outside. Be aware of conditions that increase fluid loss through sweat, such as air temperature, intensity and duration of work and exercise, and body size. Some of the signs of dehydration are thirst, flushed skin, increased body temperature, fatigue, dark yellow and strong-smelling urine, dizziness or lightheadedness, muscle cramps, faster breathing and higher pulse rate, increased perception of effort and decreased exercise capacity. 

Mix it up

Drinking plain water is, well, sometimes too plain. Experiment with different water temperatures, bottles and tastes. Try drinking room temperature water if ice-cold isn’t your thing. Drink from a straw or one of those sippy cup-style bottles. Spice it up and add fresh fruit or vegetables like lemons, limes, berries or cucumber slices. Add some herbs like mint or basil for a refreshing twist. Sip on a bottle of sparkling water rather than plain. Invest in a good water bottle. I have a Hydro Flask that I bring everywhere with me; there is always somewhere I can refill it, and this helps me track how much water I’m consuming daily. Find what works best for you.

Track it

There is an app for just about everything these days, including apps that help us meet our hydration needs. If you struggle to drink enough water or meet your hydration needs, this may be a good idea for you. Many of these apps allow you to enter your goals or even calculate your estimated needs and send alerts to hold you accountable.

The bottom line: Optimal hydration doesn’t have to be complicated. Meeting your hydration needs doesn’t have to be boring and doesn’t have to come from only plain water. Set a schedule or download an app. It may feel a little time-consuming, but it may be enough motivation to drink up if it results in fewer headaches and muscle cramps and more energy and clarity. Find the hydration strategies that work best for you. Stay safe, cool and hydrated this summer!

Anna Walter, RDE, is the operations and marketing specialist for Eat Fit Shreveport, a nonprofit initiative of Ochsner Health. Visit www. EatFitShreveport for more information, follow @EatFitShreveport on Facebook and Instagram for the latest Eat Fit updates, and sign up for the Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter.

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