Summertime Sips: Quench Your Thirst with Hydration Tips
Proper hydration is so important and seemingly so simple, yet many simply don’t get enough fluids throughout the day. Is water the only way to stay hydrated? How much is enough? How does the hot Florida weather affect hydration needs? What about the hydration needs of our pets?
As the thermometer readings creep up to 100 degrees and above, it might be tempting to reach for a cool, refreshing beverage. However, when it comes to hydration, not all beverages are created equally, according to Nancy Ulm, a registered dietician with Watson Clinic in Lakeland.
“Some people find water boring, so it’s important to think of ways to flavor the water or increase fluids through other calorie-free beverages,” Ulm says. “It is important to realize how serious dehydration can be. In severe cases it can lead to seizures and kidney failure.”
Other effects of dehydration can range from mild to severe, she says.
“Signs to watch for are extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness or confusion,” adds Ulm, who is a nutrition education specialist. Ulm, along with the team of registered dietitians in Watson Clinic’s Medical Nutrition Therapy department, works with patients to develop a personalized eating plan that can help take charge of their eating habits and create a healthier lifestyle.
When it comes to fluid intake, needs vary from person to person, Ulm says.
“Fluid needs vary, some of us need more fluid than others,” she says. “Activity level and sweating can affect the amount of fluid needed. A good guideline is to get the minimum 64 ounces of fluid per day. Sip on water throughout the day to make sure you stay hydrated.”
When a person is very active, fluid needs can be far greater.
“Depending on a person’s lifestyle, people can work up to drinking one or two gallons of water a day,” says Don Wise Jr., a personal trainer and boot camp leader at Gold’s Gym in Winter Haven. “I always tell someone to take it easy and begin by working up to a gallon a day. Depending on your expenditure in a workout, your body will let you know if you need more.”
Florida’s hot, humid climate can also play a part in fluid needs, says Wise, who has been working as a trainer since 2012.
“The humidity messes with the way sweat evaporates off the skin, causing a need for more water,” he says.
This doesn’t just impact athletes training outside. Ulm says anyone spending time outside during the summer should be cautious of their hydration.
“The summer months in Florida can get very hot and humid,” Ulm says. “When it’s humid, your sweat can’t evaporate and cool you as quickly as normal. This can lead to increased body temperature which will increase fluid needs. Be sure to keep a bottle of water with you to sip on throughout the day.”
When working out, signs of dehydration include cotton mouth, excessive sweating, lightheadedness and low energy — even after consuming a pre-workout drink, Wise says.
“If you feel like you don’t have energy, typically, you should halt your workout and look for the signs of dizziness and lightheadedness,” he says. “Most of the time, getting some water and resting for 2 to 5 minutes will help and you can continue.”
However, if you experience the other signs, you should discontinue the workout.
“Once you’re dehydrated, you’re dehydrated,” Wise says. “Hydration doesn’t start during the workout, but days before. You start hydrating on Monday for Saturday’s game. If you’re not properly hydrated, you’re not going to have optimal performance.”
Wise cautions drinking sports drinks due to their high salt and sugar content.
“Water is always most important when you’re working out,” he says. “When it comes to sports drinks, you have to be careful with the sugar. They are really for fuel purposes to replenish glycogen stores after a very intense workout. The sugars in them can give you an insulin spike.”
The non-athletic person trying to get the proper hydration also should be wary of sugar-sweetened drinks, Ulm says.
“Sugar sweetened beverages, while providing fluid, also provide excess calories and few nutrients,” she says. “Most people believe that water is the only beverage that counts toward daily fluid intake. Other fluids like unsweetened tea, milk and fruit juice also contribute to our fluid needs.”
Even moderate intake of caffeine — 1-to-2 cups of coffee — can count to fluid needs, she adds.
For people who don’t care for water, Ulm suggests getting creative with natural flavors.
“Add sliced fruit or vegetables, such as strawberries or cucumbers or a splash of lemon or lime juice to flavor water,” Ulm says. “Try seltzer water or herbal teas that are unsweetened and caffeine free.”
Alcoholic beverages can impact dehydration, so Ulm advises adults to take caution with intake during the summer.
“As you age, your sense of thirst decreases, so don’t rely on thirst to indicate the need for fluids,” she says. “For adults who choose to drink alcohol, women should limit intake to one alcoholic drink per day and men should limit intake to two drinks per day.”
Additionally, it’s not just people who need to be concerned about hydration. Pets can easily become dehydrated during summer. Generally, pets need one ounce of water per pound of body weight each day.
Orchid Springs Animal Hospital owner and veterinarian Mitsie Vargas says that all pets outdoors should have water available at all times, no exceptions.
“Indoor pets can have designated water access times since they are in A/C but I recommend allowing pets to drink at least three to four times a day,” the Winter Haven vet says.
To minimize dehydration for pets during the hot summer months, Vargas advises using common sense and avoiding the hottest times of the day and walk animals at dawn or dusk.
“Dogs and cats can’t sweat as we do, they pant instead,” Vargas says. “Excessive panting, weakness, lethargy and a hot body are signs of overheating and dehydration.”
A telltale sign of dehydration is that when pinched, an animal’s skin tends to tent instead of bouncing back to a flat state. Lethargy, dry gums, loss of appetite and weakness are additional warning signs that a pet needs water.
“Sunken eyes are also a classic dehydration sign,” she says.
Vargas says that a common misconception about pets and dehydration is that an animal’s fur keeps them too hot. She says it is a layer of protection for an animal.
“People need to realize that fur actually protects many pets from sunburn and dehydration, and shaving the pets might not be the best way of keeping them cool this summer,” she says.
Vargas also cautions to never leave pets in a running or stopped car.
“Pets can die of dehydration in a locked cat in a manner of minutes,” she says. “It’s against the law to leave unattended pets in the car.”
For more info on proper hydration, Ulm recommends the following resources: USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans (choosemyplate.gov), Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org) and the National Kidney Foundation (kidney.org).