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Healthy Hydration Tips

With the weather heating up, it's especially important to stay hydrated.  Sweat-induced dehydration is a major concern for exercisers taking advantage of hot and sunny days.  Stay on top of it with some tips and information you should know about hydration.

Humans require a certain amount of water every day in order to accomplish all the vital functions within your body that water helps with.  The exact amount of water recommended varies depending on gender, age, activity level, and the climate you live.   Water makes up about 60% of an average adult's body weight.  The more muscle tissue a person has, the higher that percentage.  The more fat, the lower that percentage.  Overweight men and women carry less water than leaner individuals.

Without adequate water intake dehydration can occur.  Dehydration is the loss of water and electrolytes necessary for normal body functioning.  Your body has some protection mechanisms in place that help prevent dehydration.  Certain hormones and your kidneys function to try and keep electrolyte and water levels balanced.  The feeling of 'thirst' is one of those mechanisms that encourages you to increase your fluid intake.

Consequences of dehydration are apparent after losing only 1% of your body water.  A 1% loss negatively affects aerobic endurance.  A 3% body water loss causes reduced muscular endurance.  A 4% body water loss results in reduced muscular strength and reduced motor skills.  A 5% loss causes heat exhaustion, cramping, fatigue, and reduced mental capacity. A 6% loss causes physical exhaustion, heatstroke, and coma.  A 10-20% loss is fatal. 

Signs of dehydration include increased thirst and dry mouth, decreased urine output or darker yellow urine, headache, dizziness, and tiredness.  The skin turgor test is a quick and easy method to identify dehydration.  Skin turgor is associated with the elasticity of the skin when it is pinched and pulled out and how quickly the skin recoils back its original position.  A slow recoil can indicate dehydration.  See the full instructions for the skin turgor test below.  If you are experiencing any dehydration symptoms, skip the sugary sports drinks and opt for coconut water without any added sweeteners, or plain water and some foods which contain electrolytes naturally. 

Electrolytes are minerals (the same minerals found in many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and in your multivitamin) that have an electric charge called ions.  For your body to function optimally, electrolyte balance is important.  Electrolytes can easily be lost in sweat, especially sodium and chloride.  Magnesium, phosphate, and potassium are electrolytes also lost in sweat, but in lower amounts.  The best way to prevent electrolyte imbalance is to maintain a consistently healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals.  Sodium and chloride are found most abundantly in salty foods.  Processed foods contain a lot of salt but should be avoided because of all the other unnatural additives.  A better alternative to get adequate sodium and chloride is from foods such as whole grains, whole fruits, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, and a variety of nuts and seeds.  The electrolyte potassium is abundant in foods including swiss chard, lima beans, yams, squash, potatoes, prunes, raisins, bananas, artichokes, and spinach.  Magnesium is in whole grains, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, green leafy vegetables, soy beans, avocados, bananas, apricots, apples, seeds, and beans.  Foods including whole grains, brazil nuts, eggs, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, berries, bananas, tomato, almonds, lentils, salmon, and dairy all contain the electrolyte phosphate.

Prevent dehydration before it starts.  Use the following calculation to estimate how much water you should drink:

Your weight in pounds x 0.5 = number of ounces of water per day

To account for exercise, add an additional 12 oz. of water per day for every 30 minutes of exercise  


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