As we approach the Summer months and rising temperatures, our bodies require more water to stay hydrated — especially if we are physically active. It’s not uncommon to fall short on some days, but the consequences to the body are unforgiving. Even a 1% drop in bodily fluids can create mild but noticeable symptoms — including fatigue, headache and poor stamina and concentration.
Water plays a crucial role in nearly all of the major systems in our body, and without enough water many of the body’s regulatory processes cannot be properly performed. If you become dehydrated, your heart has to work 3-5 times harder to pump blood because your blood gets thicker. This can affect our blood pressure and our cholesterol levels — not to mention making us more tired. Other symptoms of dehydration include constipation, urinary tract infections, dry skin, muscle cramps, digestive disorders, bad breath, premature aging, and food cravings (especially for sweets).
One of the best ways to check your hydration level is through urine; if you are urinating every 2-4 hours, and the color of the urine is clear or light yellow, you are staying hydrated. Any darker than that and you are probably not getting enough fluids.
Most of the research suggests that men need 3-4 liters of water per day, and for women the recommendations are 2-3 liters. About 20% of this amount can come from food — especially in fresh fruits and vegetables — but the rest needs to come in liquid form (alcohol and caffeinated drinks not included). These amounts will vary depending on heat levels and physically activity, which is important to remember if you are stepping up your workout — or if the weather is changing.
How can you be sure to get enough water? Here are a few tips to make it easier for you:
- Wake up and drink a big glass of water or herbal tea first thing in the morning.
- Liven up your water with lemon slices, strawberries, cucumber or mint — or drink more unsweetened herbal tea.
- Keep a pitcher on the counter to monitor how much you are getting each day.
- Eat foods with high water content — including fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as yogurt.
- Drink one glass of water for every serving of alcohol.
If you are experiencing symptoms that could be associated with low hydration levels, ramp up your intake and see what happens over the next few weeks. It definitely can’t hurt to drink more water, and most likely your body will thank you!