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Tips for staying hydrated beyond drinking water

Elisabeth D’Alto is the retail dietitian for ShopRite Timonium.
Elisabeth D’Alto is the retail dietitian for ShopRite Timonium. (Courtesy of ShopRite / HANDOUT)

Does this summer's heat have you feeling a little thirsty? You are in good company. People are more likely to get dehydrated in the summer, said Elisabeth D'Alto, the retail dietitian for ShopRite Timonium. She shares the ways people can make sure they get enough fluids — and not just by drinking water.

Why do people get more dehydrated in the summer?

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During the summer months, people tend to be more physically active. They are outdoors more and typically they are not on a structured routine. People then can become complacent when it comes to drinking adequate fluids. Water is our body's most essential nutrient, with more than 60 percent of our body made of water. Simply put, when we lose more water than we take in, we become dehydrated.

What are signs that you are dehydrated?

Signs of dehydration can range from mild to severe, including but not limited to increased thirst, decreased urination, fatigue, dry skin, lips and mouth, muscle cramping, confusion, constipation, urinary tract infections, lightheadedness and dizziness.

How much should a person drink a day to remain hydrated?

Water needs vary based on age, gender, weight and activity level. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that adult men should drink an average of 13 cups a day of water and adult women drink an average of nine cups per day of water. However, the best indicator of your hydration status is the color of your urine. For most healthy adults, clear or pale-colored urine suggests adequate hydration, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration. To make sure you are drinking adequate water throughout the day, make it a habit to drink a glass of water when you first get up in the morning, carry a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day and drink a glass of water with each meal. The key is to drink before you are even thirsty because once you have that dire sensation of thirst, you are already slightly dehydrated.

What are other ways a person can stay hydrated beyond drinking water?

It's important to eat hydrating foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well. Melons such as watermelon and cantaloupe, berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are some of the most hydrating fruits. Cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers and squash all also have a significant amount of water content. Not only does this produce contain over 90 percent water but they also pack in loads of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

If plain water seems boring to you, try some of the zero-calorie flavored waters like La Croix or store-brand sparkling water. Coconut water is also hydrating and replaces some of the electrolytes lost through sweat. Milk and milk alternatives also provide a good amount of protein, calcium and vitamin D, in addition to contributing to our hydration needs.

Are some people more prone to dehydration than others?

Yes. The older adult population is at a higher risk for dehydration because as we age, our sensation of thirst decreases. Also, certain medications such as diuretics can result in dehydration. Remember, even if you don't feel thirsty, your body needs plenty of water. Other populations that are more at risk for dehydration during the hot summer months include infants and children, people with chronic illnesses, endurance athletes and people who work outdoors.

What are some behaviors that contribute to dehydration?

Poor dietary habits can sometimes lead to dehydration. For example, too much salt in the diet can cause dehydration, or too many added sugars can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, which can negatively affect your hydration status. Also keep in mind that sports drinks, which contain added sugars, are only needed if you are engaging in physical activity for an hour or more; otherwise, water is typically sufficient. Alcohol also has a diuretic effect on our bodies, which can lead to dehydration.

Why is dehydration potentially dangerous?

When we are dehydrated, it causes our kidneys to work harder, resulting in increased nitrogen concentrations in our urine, causing it to be darker in color. Remember, the lighter in color, the more hydrated you are. Severe dehydration can cause symptoms such as extreme thirst, confusion and irritability, sunken eyes, very dry skin, and little or no urination.

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What are some creative drinks that can help people stay hydrated?

There are now endless varieties of zero-calorie beverages to choose from in the supermarket to help you make a smart choice. You can even add citrus fruits, berries, cucumbers or herbs to water to make your own refreshing beverage. Here are three quick ideas:

  • Strawberry basil blast: Crush eight fresh basil leaves to release their flavor and combine them with three cups of halved strawberries. Gently muddle in a large pitcher of ice-cold water.
  • Rosemary refresher: Crush four rosemary sprigs to release their flavor. Combine them with six cups of watermelon chunks in a large pitcher of ice-cold water.
  • Cucumber quencher: Crush six mint leaves to release flavor. Combine them with two thinly sliced cucumbers and four thinly sliced limes in a large pitcher of ice-cold water.
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