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Keys to Staying Hydrated

Did you know that thirst doesn’t kick in until you’re already dehydrated? Or that water isn’t always the best way to stay hydrated?

As the temperature starts to rise and outdoor activity increases, we thought it would be beneficial to share some simple tips and dispel some of the myths about hydration.

Tip #1: When working in the heat, the CDC recommends drinking 1 cup (8 ounces) of water every 15–20 minutes. This translates to ¾–1 quart (24–32 ounces) per hour. Drinking at shorter intervals is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently. This helps the body retain more fluids and prevents the kidneys from being “overloaded”.

Tip #2: All drinks count towards hydration except alcohol. Sports drinks, milk, or oral solutions (Pedialyte) will help you stay better hydrated than drinking plain water. There are also sports drinks available such as Vitargo, that are not simple sugar based and function the same as the well-known sugar-based carbohydrate products Gatorade and Powerade.

Tip #3: Add electrolytes for athletic performance. Muscles need electrolytes to function. It is critical to replace some of the sodium lost in sweat. This will help prevent cramping, fatigue, and a decrease in power and speed. A good baseline suggestion from the American College of Sports Medicine is 500-700 mg/L of sodium per hour. If you notice salt streaks on your clothes, you probably need more.

Now let's address some myths that typically get associated with hydration.

Myth #1: What you drink isn’t important. The composition of the drink is just as important as the volume you drink. Drinks containing sodium and potassium help your body retain more of the fluid you consume. Macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) slow the digestive process through the stomach helping to increase hydration for longer.

Myth #2: Caffeine is dehydrating. While consuming large quantities could affect overall hydration, in small amounts, the caffeine in tea, coffee, and soft drinks probably will not have an effect on overall hydration.

Myth #3: My body will tell me when I need something to drink. “Drink to thirst” is poor advice for those exercising or working in the heat for over 90 minutes, exercising at a high intensity, or focused on athletic performance. Staying on top of hydration will decrease the symptoms associated with dehydration: headache, nausea, dizziness, flushed skin, and chills.

We hope these simple but important tips help keep you hydrated as you enjoy the summer months ahead! And remember, always consult with your registered dietitian or medical professional if you need further hydration or nutrition assistance.

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