Summertime means outdoor fun, sunshine and hot temperatures. That’s why it’s important to properly fuel your body and keep an eye out for the early signs of dehydration.
The message used to be simple: “Drinking water is good and not drinking water is bad.” But somehow, over the years, this message became unclear, and it’s often tough to distinguish hydration facts from myths. Melissa Hughes, a registered dietitian nutritionist at the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management, sets the record straight and weighs in on the latest water and hydration hype.
1. Why is it important to stay hydrated?
Water is life — every physiological function of our bodies depends on water to survive. Water removes toxins from the body, helps regulate body temperature and aids in many other important functions. During the summer, it’s especially important to stay hydrated as we lose water quicker when the sun is out, when temperatures rise and when we sweat more.
2. Do you need to drink eight cups of water a day?
This is a broad recommendation, but a good goal. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding; are very physically active; are outside in hot weather; or have medical conditions including kidney stones, a bladder infection, or vomiting or diarrhea may need more than eight glasses of water per day.
3. Does water flush out toxins from your body?
Yes, water carries waste out from the body. The kidneys use water to filter waste from the blood and carry water-soluble toxins from the liver, which are eliminated in the urine.
4. Does caffeine dehydrate you?
While caffeine does have a weak diuretic effect, moderate caffeine consumption does not increase risk of dehydration.
5. Do you need to pee clear to be hydrated?
Urine color is an indicator of hydration. Clear urine means you’re basically eliminating water, which may mean you’re drinking more water than you need. A very light yellow color means the body is well hydrated. The deeper the color of the urine, the more dehydrated the body. A dark amber or brown means you should seek medical attention.
6. Is there such a thing as too much water? Can you drink too much?
It’s really difficult to drink too much water. Rare cases of over-hydration can cause hyponatremia, or a critically low level of sodium in the blood. Symptoms look very similar to heat exhaustion and include headache, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
7. Is being dehydrated a big deal?
Especially with summer heat waves, it is important to stay well-hydrated. Symptoms of early dehydration include dark urine, weakness, cramping and headaches. Moderate symptoms of dehydration include low blood pressure; fainting; a fast, weak pulse; and rapid and deep breathing.
Hughes offers these tips for staying hydrated:
- Keep water nearby. Take a refillable water bottle with you — it’s a good reminder to drink water throughout the day.
- Infuse your water. If you get tired of plain water, try making spa water by adding fresh fruit, vegetables or herbs. Chop up watermelon and basil and soak in a water pitcher; another good combination is blueberries and mint.
“The body is made up of about 60 percent water,” says Hughes. “So staying hydrated is absolutely essential to health.”