Drink Up!

By Scott Sohn

Don’t be a de-hydro this summer, drink to your health! Water will cleanse your summer soul.

Staying hydrated is crucial for your health year-round, and especially during the hot summer months. To keep cool, our system releases sweat through the skin, which then evaporates and causes our bodies to cool down. This unique human adaptation of sweating allowed early man to chase down animals for long distances without overheating.

This cooling system helped us to evolve but also comes with an important fluid requirement. Health experts have long recommended that we drink around 8 cups of water per day. That’s actually a pretty good rule to follow as it provides about 64 ounces of fluid.

However, new guidelines have suggested that we may need even more water to maintain a healthy level of hydration. The Mayo Clinic suggests around 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for the average woman. Of course, these recommended amounts can increase or decrease with physical exercise and certain diseases. But as a general rule, most people need to consume at least 2 liters of water each day. Remember that we also derive some water from the foods we eat, such as fruits and vegetables and other types of beverages. Milk, juice, and even caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee are mostly water and can contribute around 20% to daily fluid intake. Unfortunately, most people are still living in a chronic state of dehydration. Studies have shown that up to 75% of Americans don’t get enough fluids each day.

Our bodies are comprised of 55-75% water depending on age and body composition. The thing is, humans are very leaky! We lose fluids every day through perspiration, breathing, urination, and stool. On average we lose about 20-30oz per day from breathing and sweating — another 3-7oz from stool, and an additional 34-85oz from urine. You can see how easy it is to fall behind on water intake as we are constantly leaking fluids! That’s why dehydration is a major health concern for so many people, especially in the summertime. Symptoms of mild dehydration include dry mouth, increased thirst, tiredness, dry skin, and dizziness. Severe dehydration can quickly follow with further symptoms including decreased urine output, dark urine, headache, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, fever, poor skin elasticity, confusion, seizure, shock and eventually death.

Because it affects so many things, staying hydrated is undoubtedly one of the most important things you can do for your health. Water helps promote weight loss by decreasing hunger and stimulating the digestive system. Water also plays a crucial role in muscle performance as dehydration causes muscle cells to shrivel and become fatigued. Adequate water intake is also essential for joint lubrication and helps protect the spinal cord and other sensitive tissues throughout the body. Additionally, water maintains blood pressure, regulates body temperature, helps mineral and nutrient absorption, prevents kidney damage, boosts athletic performance, increases mental focus, helps concentration, and improves mood. And to top it off, water is the key to young- and healthy-looking skin! Dehydration increases the appearance of wrinkles and disrupts normal collagen production. And that reason alone should be enough to get you drinking more! When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. Dehydration causes urine concentration, color, and odor to increase. Try to drink about 6 ounces of water each hour throughout the day to maintain a healthy level of hydration. Water is absorbed better in small increments as opposed to guzzling down large amounts all at once. And if you drink alcohol, your water requirements will increase. For every alcoholic drink you have, your body can excrete (piss) up to four times as much liquid. That diuretic effect and the resulting dehydration are what causes those nasty hangovers. So, what have you got to lose? Try drinking more water and find out for yourself just how much better you feel.

Look younger and have more energy, more focus, a better mood, a clearer head, and better health. What are you waiting for? Drink up!

Hydration Tips

    1. Drink water first thing in the morning.
    2. After sleeping for several hours, the body needs to rehydrate (especially after drinking alcohol). Drinking water first thing releases toxins, improves digestion, and reduces hangover.
    3. Drink water with every snack and meal.
    4. Eat more water-filled fruits and vegetables.
    5. Carry a water bottle.

    Scott is a local Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in men’s health and wellness programs. Learn more at sohnnutrition.com.

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