The Importance of Hydration

By Debbie Dorsch, PT/ATC

Whether you are a weekend warrior, serious athlete or always on the go; it is important to stay hydrated. Summer is in full swing and as the temperatures and humidity rise, hydration is an important component to your health.

Fitness woman drinking water from bottle

The human body is comprised of 60-70% water and nearly all of our major organ systems in the body depend on it. Water in our body moistens and protects tissues and organs, helps prevent constipation, assists with dissolving minerals and other nutrients, regulates body temperature and carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells. Water also lubricates joints and decreases the burden on both our kidneys and liver by flushing out harmful toxins. As you can see, staying hydrated is essential in order for our body to function properly.

What are Signs of Dehydration?

A quick way to determine if you’re dehydrated is to observe the color of your urine. If your urine is light or clear, your body is adequately hydrated. However, if it is brown or dark then your body is dehydrated. A few signs and symptoms of dehydration may include:

  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of sweat
  • Hard, fast heartbeat
  • Decreased cognitive abilities

In fact, if you are thirsty you’re already dehydrated. If you lose a pound in sweat, you need a pint or 16 ounces of water to replenish in order to remain hydrated.

What is the Best Way to Stay Hydrated?

Drinking water throughout the day is essential, especially on hot days. Consume foods with a high-water content such as: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, oranges, skim milk, cucumbers, lettuce and soups/broths.

What About Athletes?

Athletes should plan to drink even more than suggested. The following is recommended:

  • 17-20 oz. of water 2-3 hours before exercising
  • 8 oz. of water 20-30 minutes before you start exercising
  • 7-10 oz. of water every 10-20 minutes while exercising
  • 8 oz. of water no more than 30 minutes post exercise

After exercising, especially if the physical activity is greater than 1 hour, a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade may be beneficial. Keep in mind sports drinks are high in calories from added sugar and may also contain high levels of sodium.