As the summer sun and the temperature heat up, hydration becomes critical.
People spend more time outside in the hot sun doing various activities. A lot of people like to hang out at the pool, the lake, or the beach, around water, and often don’t remember they still need to drink water to avoid dehydration. Sports practices begin in summer and sweating a lot can contribute to dehydration… and dehydration has a negative effect on sports performance.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is using or losing more fluid than you take in, so your body doesn't have enough water and fluids to function normally. This can result in electrolyte imbalance. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy, make you weak and cause inability to think clearly. Severe dehydration can lead to dizziness, nausea, vomiting and serious illness like heat stroke.
Electrolytes are minerals, like sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium, that help balance the amount of water in your body and help maintain appropriate pH levels. Imbalances in electrolytes, caused by dehydration and sweating, can result in muscle twitching or fatigue. Just as an example, a muscle needs calcium, sodium, and potassium to contract. If any of these minerals become imbalanced, it can lead to either muscle weakness or excessive contraction (twitching).
So drink up and stay hydrated and balanced. Sounds simple enough, right?
What to drink?
#1 best option to stay hydrated is Water. We don’t think of it as a nutrient, but water IS an essential nutrient for your body. Alkaline, or high pH water with electrolytes, can be even better for hydration. If you don’t like to drink plain water, drink essenced water or flavored sparkling water. Be sure to check the label and avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors. The other option is to make your own infused water with fruits and herbs. This is a way to make water more interesting and fun, and the options are endless! See several Infused Water Recipes here.
Coconut Water. Also called coconut juice, this natural isotonic beverage is high potassium and other electrolytes, making it a great fluid replacement beverage for exercise and sports events. And it has no added sugar or sweeteners, making it an even better choice than the common sports beverages. Coconut water is also available combined with pure fruit juice.
Tea. Tea can be a good option if you choose right. Choose from black, green, white or rooibos (red) teas, or a variety of herbal teas. Brew tea with hot water, then pour over ice for a refreshing iced tea to cool you off on a hot day. Or try one of the many ready to drink bottled teas available. Remember that black and green tea contain caffeine, a diuretic, so be sure you still supplement your tea drinking with some water. And watch the sugar content of bottled teas as they can be high! For this to be a good option to fight dehydration, you want to go with unsweetened or just lightly sweetened tea.
Fruits & Veggies. If you need another reason to eat those fresh fruits and veggies, here it is! Certain fruits and vegetables have a high water content. Think of summer’s bounty…watermelon, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers…for high water fruits and veggies.
Sports Drinks. Sports Drinks were designed for one thing…to be used during sports practices and competitions. They are good for these times only. Outside of sports, they are not a good beverage option because they can be very high in sugar, full of artificial colors and flavors, and even somewhat high in sodium. This is fine and even good for sports events and practices, but not for daily drinking. Another, and maybe better, option is to make your own sports drink with water and an electrolyte mix specifically designed for hydration. This will help keep sugar in check.