Not only is water essential, it literally makes up your entire being: We are all made up of 40 to 70% water, depending on your fitness level and age. Staying hydrated is always important, but it may become more challenging as the temperature rises. Hard-working muscles generate more heat when they are surrounded by hot air, making it harder for your body to maintain a normal temperature.
Even a 1 to 2 percent loss of body weight (from water) can compromise your performance and impact your body’s ability to cool itself. The heart pumps harder, circulation slows and muscles fatigue more quickly. If the loss creeps up to 3 to 4 percent, you’ll be at increased risk of developing heat-related illness and injury, including cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Even when you’re not active, your body loses more than a quart of water every day through urine, perspiration, sweat and breath, according to the National Institutes of Health. And most days, it’s more than 2.5 quarts.
The goal is to replace what’s lost. Here’s how:
- Drink before you’re thirsty. If you are thirsty, chances are you’re already dehydrated. Your best defense is a good offense! Drinking water on a consistent basis, so you never reach the point of thirst is ideal.
- Take frequent water breaks. While you may not want to disrupt your workout for a water break, taking a time out for some much-needed liquid nourishment will pay off in the long run. Drink 8 to 10 ounces of water before starting any activity. Once the games begin, drink another 7 to 10 ounces every 20 to 30 minutes.
- Track your intake. Many people don’t know how much water they should drink daily—or even how much water they’re typically downing. If you’re sipping on a 16-ounce bottle, try to drink approximately 4 of them each day—and even more if you’re exercising heavily. There are also apps for you phone that allow you to track your water intake, and even remind you that you should be drinking.
- Consider a drink with electrolytes when exercising. Are you working out for more than an hour? Consider sipping a sports drink—or nibbling on some pretzels or a banana to restore lost electrolytes. Your body loses important electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride when you sweat. A good sports drink can help you replenish them. Coconut water is also a great choice, but there are several healthy, low-sugar options out there.
- Snack on water-rich produce.Water-packed snacks, including melon, berries, bell peppers, celery and grapes, are all good options and they also have some electrolytes in them as well!
- Step on the scale. Weigh yourself before and after a workout. If the scale shows a loss, replenish it with water (gulp 20 to 24 ounces of water for every pound lost). If you’ve lose 3 percent or more of your body weight, chances are you’re severely dehydrated.
- Check your urine. It may seem strange, but checking your urine is probably the best way to determine whether or not you are dehydrated. Ideally the color would be a pale yellow, but if it’s a deep yellow or light orange, you should definitely start drinking more water.