Warm summer weather goes hand in hand with increased participation in outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it also comes with an increased risk for dehydration. It’s always important to make sure you hydrate properly—especially when exercising—but as temperatures increase it becomes even more crucial.
According to the Mayo Clinic, when it’s hot outside your body temperature rises and your sweat rate increases, as a result it’s essential to drink extra fluids not only to replace what you lose, but also in order to lower your body temperature and maintain blood volume, blood pressure and other physiological functions that require fluid.
The amount of water needed to maintain hydration varies among individuals. Most healthy people can use thirst as their guideline, however if you’re plan on exercising or participating in any sort of strenuous activity you shouldn’t wait to drink until you’re thirsty. It’s important to hydrate adequately beforehand and through the entire time that you’re active.
Mayo Clinic recommends:
“In general, it's best to start hydrating the day before strenuous exercise. Producing lots of clear, dilute urine is a good indication that you're well hydrated. Before exercising, drink 1 to 3 cups (0.24 to 0.70 liters) of water. During the activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals and continue drinking water or other fluids after you're finished.
Keep in mind that drinking too much not only can cause bloating and discomfort but also may lead to a potentially fatal condition in which your blood sodium becomes too low (hyponatremia). This occurs when you drink more fluids than you lose through sweating.”
Although thirst can often be a good hydration indicator for many, for some it won’t be a dependable measure of the body’s need for water. The best indicator will always be the color of your urine. A well hydrated individual will produce clear or light-colored urine. On the other hand, dark-colored urine is usually a sign of dehydration.
Prevention is the most important part of avoiding dehydration and making sure you’re prepared with extra fluids is fairly easy. However, in case of an emergency it’s important that you’re able to recognize the following symptoms, which according to Mayo Clinic are most commonly associated with moderate dehydration:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urine output
- Inability to produce tears
- Dry skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
According to Mayo Clinic extreme cases of dehydration often show signs of extreme thirst, irritability and confusion, very dry skin, very little urination (and if any it will be much darker than normal), low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and breathing, fever and in extremely serious cases delirium or unconsciousness.
A few other important factors to note:
- When you sweat, your body loses salts too and they also need to be replenished. This can be accomplished through ingesting electrolyte fortified beverages or salty foods.
- Aside from drinking water, it's also recommended that you stay hydrated by consuming foods like fruits and vegetables with high water contents.
- Your body’s fluid needs could increase at altitudes greater than 8,200 feet. Plan accordingly when traveling or hiking to high altitude destinations.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages which increase urine output and as a result, will dehydrate you.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, which also increase dehydration.