Get those 8 glasses of water in a day! That’s what everyone says. But first of all – nobody drinks 8oz glasses of water. And second of all, not everyone knows what it really means – 8oz 8 times a day is 64oz, which is half a gallon of water.
However, it seems like the majority of us ignore these recommendations – likely because we don’t know the importance of them. The average US adult consumes 3.9 cups (about 32oz) of plain water per day. And while all fluids you consume – coffee, soda, soup – count towards your hydration levels, they often negate themselves: coffee is a diuretic, soda is filled with sugars and acids, and soup is full of sodium. Which is why the recommendation is water, not fluids.
Many health professionals ditch the standard 64oz and put it on a sliding scale, because a 240lb pro football player definitely has different hydration needs than a 130lb video-game-playing teen. We like to recommend dividing body weight in half and setting a goal of that many ounces. For example, if you weigh 200lbs, aim for 100oz of water per day.
There are myriad health benefits we’ll discuss about getting enough H20 in each day. But it’s especially important, if you don’t currently measure your water intake that you start before the dead of summer hits. Summer heat, sun, and humidity add extra health risks than just dehydration.
The Dangers of Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke
Everyone looks forward to trips to the beach, days spent poolside, kayaking in June – all the fun things that come with sunny, warm days. But there are dangers lurking between those rays of sun, especially if you’re running a little dry or have had 3 mai-tais before noon without drinking some water first.
Speaking of cocktails, it’s important to consider that some things will make you more dehydrated than others. Particularly hot and humid days drain fluids via sweat. Alcohol and coffee drain fluids through diuretic actions. Exercising in the heat also causes you to lose more sweat than in the colder season.
The more minor and uncomfortable effects of dehydration include dry mouth, headache, fatigue, low mood, lightheadedness, and infrequent, strongly-colored urination.
The first semi-immediate dehydration risk that comes with summer is heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is most often caused by losing too much sweat, which deprives your body of water and electrolytes. If you have high blood pressure, are elderly, or work outdoors, you’re at a higher risk of suffering from heat exhaustion. Symptoms include:
- Excessive sweating
- Raised body temperature
- Infrequent urination
The key to avoiding heat exhaustion, besides drinking water, is to listen to your body. When it starts telling you it’s nauseous and shaky and too sweaty, stop what you’re doing, find some shade, chill, and chug some water.
The most dangerous and potentially fatal thing that can happen if you’re not careful with your activity level and keeping up on your water intake during the summer is heat stroke. Heat stroke is typically a result of ignoring symptoms of heat exhaustion and continuing the activity that’s causing it.
Heat stroke is when your body’s internal temperature regulation system breaks. Yeah – scary. Your body can’t control its temperature and it quickly rises to dangerous levels – like to 106° or more in a span of 10 minutes. It can cause permanent disabilities from brain and heart damage, or even death.
You know a heat stroke is close on the horizon when you stop sweating or being thirsty despite knowing you’re overheated and dehydrated. You become confused and dizzy, develop a fever, and have hot, chalky-feeling skin. You may start slurring your speech as it progresses, or even have a seizure. If intervention doesn’t occur immediately, heat stroke can be fatal.
The key to saving someone who’s in a heat stroke is to get them out of the sun and cool them down in whatever way you can, whether that’s a wet cloth on the back of the neck or forehead, ice packs or cold fluids. Heat stroke is 100% one of those times you should call 911 for emergency response and admittance for a saline drip to replace fluids, salts and fluid volume ASAP.
The Benefits of Drinking Enough Water
Okay, so we’ve got the fear-based reasons down for why you feel the need to go fill up your water bottle right now, but there are also great reasons you should drink enough water! Considering more than half your body weight is literally just some water, being hydrated in any season can improve the health and function of all your bodily systems:
- It supports your body’s ability to regulate its temperature via sweating.
- It facilitates nutrient absorption and distribution by acting as a medium for transport.
- It helps your body remove waste by supporting kidney function.
- It protects cognitive function by keeping the brain hydrated.
- It boosts energy levels by encouraging the body to metabolize carbs and proteins.
- It protects your skin health by keeping it moisturized and maintaining elasticity.
- It promotes healthy weight management by curbing cravings and giving a feeling of fullness.
- It supports physical performance by maintaining muscle function and joint lubrication.
How do you know you’re getting enough water to reap all these benefits? Your urine should be pale yellow, you should feel generally well and not fatigued, your weight should remain consistent throughout the day, and you should only feel thirsty now and then.
5 Tips for Making Sure You’re Getting Enough H2O
One rule of thumb: if you feel thirsty or have a dry mouth, you’re dehydrated. You need water in you ASAP to avoid the dangers of summer dehydration. 5 simple ways to up your water intake are:
- Drink water first thing in the morning. It jumpstarts your metabolism and offers some morning energy.
- Set a schedule and maybe some alarms to remind you to drink water throughout the day.
- Keep a water bottle on you in the home and out, and mark it to provide yourself goals throughout the day.
- Add a sugar and calorie-free sweetener like flavor packets or a squeeze of fresh lemon.
- Pay attention to your body – especially feeling fatigued, thirsty, or having dark-coloured urine.
No go take a hike! But don’t forget your Nalgene.