Health Break | Published June 8, 2012 | Written by Michele D. Rager, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC

Stay Hydrated on Hot Days

It's no secret - fluids are necessary to beat the heat. As long as you make the right choices, the fluids you consume are second only to oxygen in keeping you alive and well. But what beverages are best? And how much should you drink?

During the summer in Pennsylvania, we live with high heat and humidity so staying hydrated by drinking lots of fluids is key. Plain water is certainly preferable; after all we don't just drink it, we're made of it. Water comprises almost 70 percent of our weight and is critical to functions such as carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, flushing away waste, and regulating body temperature.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that adult women consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of fluids and men consume 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of fluids each day. That means that most of us should be taking in between nine to 13, 8-ounce glasses of water per day—more if it’s hot outside and you are active. Although the foods we eat do account for a portion of the fluids we are to consume each day, most of the fluids we consume come from drinking water and other beverages. If you are thinking that nine-13 glasses per day seems like a tall order, here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help you reach your goal:

  • Take a drink every time you walk past a water fountain.
  • Keep a glass or bottle of water at your desk if you’re a “subconscious” sipper.
  • If out in hot weather — especially if you are active — drink some water every 15 minutes, if possible.
  • Eat solid foods that have a lot of water in them like lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, grapefruit and yogurt.

Of course, water used to be a cheap and efficient way to quench your thirst. In the early 1990's bottled water companies like Evian and Perrier emerged in the market and transformed water from prosaic hydrator to lifestyle beverage. Today, "enhanced" waters are making a splash. Available in a variety of fruit flavors, they are often touted as being full of vitamins, electrolytes and other enhancements.

But do all these "enhancements" really enhance the benefits of water? Health experts say it's important to use discretion when drinking water with anything added to it. Be sure to read labels carefully to evaluate the calories per serving in each container. There are often added calories from sugar or other ingredients.

While the increased consumption of soda tends to get most of the blame for packing on the pounds, the real culprit is the excessive amounts of sugar we consume in all forms of liquid. Whether it is soft drinks, fancy coffees, fruit drinks, lemonade, sweetened tea and now vitamin waters, sweetened drinks have us battling the bulge. With 150 calories in a 12-ounce soda, a soda at lunch and another at dinner adds 300 calories that aren't offset by nutrients.

Drinking sports beverages can also add unwanted calories and is likely unnecessary unless you are taking part in vigorous activity for more than 60 minutes. Plain water is generally the best choice, but if you find the taste of water is too bland, try one of these alternatives:

  • calorie-free flavored waters
  • carbonated waters
  • diet flavor packets added to a bottle of water
  • small amount of citrus juice, such as lemon or lime, added to water

Drinking cold water also enhances the taste and will quench your thirst better than soft drinks.

Michele Rager, MS,RD,LDN,CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at Mount Nittany Medical Center. More information is available at mountnittany.org.

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