A lot of people struggle with staying well hydrated, and Regional One Health’s clinical nutrition team is here to help.
Proper hydration helps the body feel, function and even look better, and prevents medical emergencies like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Make sure you’re drinking the appropriate amount of fluids for your body’s needs, and always aim to hydrate before you start to feel thirsty.
Many factors play a role in good health, and one of the most important is also one of the most overlooked: proper hydration.
During the Mid-South’s hot, humid summers, it is especially crucial to stay hydrated – but it can be hard to take in enough fluids. “Despite water being critical to sustain life and an important part of overall health, many people still don’t drink enough,” said Jacqueline Daughtry, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Regional One Health.
Experts have a simple calculation for how much fluid to drink each day.
Figure out your body weight in pounds. Divide that in half, and that’s the low end for how many ounces of fluid you need each day. Your total weight is the high end for ounces of fluid. So, if you weigh 150 pounds you should consume between 75 and 150 ounces of fluid daily.
While that’s a general rule, your fluid needs increase under certain circumstances, Daughtry said.
Anyone who eats a lot of protein and/or fiber should increase fluids, as should those with chronic illnesses or taking certain medications. The very young and the elderly or older adults are also at greater risk for dehydration. People with conditions like heart or kidney disease should follow their provider’s guidance for fluid intake/hydration.
Jacqueline Daughtry, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Regional One Health, said proper hydration is important yet often overlooked: “Despite water being critical to sustain life and an important part of overall health, many people still don’t drink enough.”
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you need more fluids to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke. “Heat and high humidity cause the body to sweat, putting you at increased risk of dehydration,” Daughtry said. “Increase fluid intake in times of higher temperature and high heat index.”
You should also increase fluids if you are active.
Aim for 7-12 ounces 15-30 minutes before activity, 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes during exercise, 8 ounces immediately post workout and 2-3 cups over the next few hours. If you are active for long periods of time, you may need sports drinks with electrolytes.
“Just be mindful of the sugar content – you don’t want to consume significant calories from added sugar,” Daughtry said.
Be aware of the signs of dehydration and overheating and get to a cool place and drink water if you experience them. Nausea, headaches, faintness, muscle cramps and fatigue are all serious red flags, and more subtle signals include chapped lips, dry skin, bloating or a hoarse voice.
Daughtry said it’s best to regularly consume fluids, not wait until you feel thirsty.
Try starting and ending your day with a glass of water and drinking water before each meal and with meals. Carry a refillable bottle and sip throughout the day, or drinking 1 cup per hour during the work day are easy ways to meet hydration goal.
While water truly is the best rehydration choice, Daughtry said, smoothies and juices with no added sugar, tea, sparkling water, low-fat milk and even popsicles are good options for mixing it up. Infusing water with mint, citrus slices, berries, etc. is also flavorful and healthy. Eating fresh produce like cucumbers, peaches, berries, oranges, tomatoes and melons also helps.
On the other hand, Daughtry said, avoid too much alcohol or caffeinated drinks – they can be dehydrating.
Daughtry said while many people understand they need to stay hydrated to avoid serious health emergencies, they don’t always realize just how much better this simple step can make them feel.
Remember: If you’re outdoors in the heat a lot or very active, your hydration needs increase. Aim to drink water before you feel thirsty, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion like faintness, nausea and fatigue.
Proper hydration helps prevent kidney stones, promotes stable blood pressure, reduces asthma and allergy symptoms and even eases hangovers. It regulates body temperature, improves digestion and keeps the mouth, nose and eyes from feeling dry.
Fluids boost performance during strenuous activity by making minerals and nutrients more accessible to different parts of the body, helping deliver oxygen throughout the body and keeping joints lubricated. Cognitively, it prevents negative impacts on the brain, hormones and neurotransmitters that can lead to problems with thinking and reasoning.
There are even aesthetic benefits. Drinking water promotes weight loss and reduces vulnerability to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
“Proper hydration can be a challenge, but your body will thank you,” Daughtry said. “If you get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day and try some healthy alternatives to keep things interesting, you can feel better, look better and perform better!”
Try these easy recipes from the American Heart Association for tasty hydration options!
Strawberry Basil Infused Water
- 4 sliced strawberries
- 2 muddled fresh basil leaves
- 3 cups of water
Watermelon, Mint and Cucumber
- 1/2 cup of cubed watermelon
- 3 cucumber muddled slices
- 2 sprigs muddled fresh mint leaves
- 3 cups of water
- 1 sliced/muddled orange
- 10 crushed/muddled cranberries
- 3 cups of water
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before drinking in order to bring out the flavors. Add one cup of ice before drinking.