So it's August. It's hot. Maybe humid. Let's talk about hydration. We've all heard the "drink 8 cups of water a day" rule, right? Well, that's not a bad place to start, but it's also not written in stone. Hydration needs vary for everyone, and can change based on age, health (some disease states like chronic kidney disease or congestive heart failure limit fluids), environment (is it hot or cold outside?), activity level (did you just run a 5k, or are you typing at your desk, like me?). You get the idea.
According to the U.S National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an adequate daily amount of fluids is 15.6 cups for men, and 11.4 cups for women. And that includes what we get from food (about 20% of our daily fluids come from food).
Keep it Simple
Just drink water when you're thirsty. I know that sounds vague, so you can aim for a cup of water with each meal, and one in between. That, combined with fluids from food, should get you close. You can also get one of those cool water bottles that makes you feel guilty if you haven't emptied it by certain times of the day (I do not own one, that feels like a lot of pressure, but it's probably a good idea for those that forget to drink water during the day).
Signs of Dehydration
These can vary greatly, especially between infants, young children, and the elderly. An older person might not feel thirsty until they are already dehydrated, so sipping on something throughout the day is a good idea. You also need more water if you are sick, vomiting, or have diarrhea. The following are some, but not all, of the common symptoms of dehydration.
-Urine is dark and has a strong odor.
-You have extreme thirst.
-You have less frequent urination.
For Infants/Young Kids:
-They go 3+ hours without a wet diaper.
-They are listless or irritable.
-They have a dry mouth or tongue.
How Do I Know If I'm Hydrated?
-Your urine should be colorless (or light yellow) and odorless.
-You shouldn't feel thirsty very often.
If it's very hot or humid and you are sweating a lot (your body's way of cooling itself), you are likely losing electrolytes. Electrolytes consist of mostly sodium and chloride, but also potassium, magnesium and calcium. They should be replaced too, and anyone who has hydrated with just water instead of adding those electrolytes can tell the difference. You'll be much more energized after those electrolytes, especially for sports.
-Sports drinks (sugar-free)
-Fruit (strawberries, mangoes, cherries, watermelon, banana, oranges, etc)
-Unsweetened coconut water (naturally high in potassium, sodium, and low in sugar)
But Water is BORING!
You can meet your fluid needs with all kinds of things, not just water. So make it fun! In addition to fruits and veggies (which are mostly composed of water), herbal teas, milk, and even caffeinated beverages like coffee can count towards your fluid intake. Juices, sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks do also, but I don't recommend them given their high sugar content. They can easily contribute to excess calories and cause cavities, especially if consumed in between meals. We love to make fresh lemonade on a hot day, and the recipe below is refreshingly tart with a hint of sweetness.
-1 lemon, juiced
-1-2 Tbsp honey or agave
-1 cup water or sparkling water
-fresh basil, mint or rosemary to garnish
Juice lemon. Add honey or agave and stir until combined. Add water or sparkling water and pour over ice. Enjoy!