Keeping hydrated on hot days

It's important to avoid dehydration; especially during hot summer days.

If you’ve been toting a pack of water bottles around with you like a camel, worried about getting the magic eight to ten glasses of water every day, there is good news: You can relax. While it is important to stay hydrated, especially on these hot summer days or if you’re older and your thirst alert isn’t as reliable as it used to be, recent scientific reviews suggest there’s little basis for that well-known water goal. The amount of water needed each day is dependent upon various factors. And despite what you may have heard, the water in caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea does “count.” For most people, the biggest worry should not be getting enough water but getting too many liquid calories in sweetened beverages. The best thing about water compared to a 250-calorie, 20 ounce non-diet soft drink, is that it quenches your thirst with zero calories.

It was speculated that the widely held belief about water consumption sprang from a 1945 finding by the Nutrition Council that people need 64 ounces of fluids (eight eight-ounce glasses) daily. Those 64 ounces include the fluids in food as well as coffee, tea and soda. A related misconception about water has to do with thirst; that in healthy people, thirst is actually an early sign of your body needing more fluids, not a late sign. Some people such as athletes, people with certain diseases and those living in desert climates, do have special water needs.

According to the American Heart Association, for every pound of sweat lost, one pint of water is needed to replenish the body. If you are not sweating during physical activity this is a red flag that you may be dehydrated already in which chances for heat exhaustion are increased.

Does coffee count? If you obey your thirst, the answer is probably yes. The notion that the diuretic effects of caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea cancel out their water content was disproven as far back as 1928.

Water plays an important role in your body to regulate its temperature, lubricate and cushion joints, protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, remove wastes and even help to keep you breathing. The human body is made up of 60 percent water. Your blood averages 92 percent water, and even your muscles are 75 percent water, as is your brain. As you grow older, it is even more important to guard against dehydration. Older people have a reduced sensation of thirst, so it is easier to miss the warning signs of dehydration.

In addition to sweating, your body loses water through breathing, urination and bowel movements. This water loss needs to be replenished to keep your body functioning properly. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Institute of Medicine as determined an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.

All fluids found in foods and various drinks count towards hydration but water still comes out on top. You don’t have to carry water around in camel-like quantities, but nothing beats water for health and hydration. For more helpful information on living healthy, visit www.msue.msu.edu

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