Staying Hydrated in the Intense Heat

By: Cassidy Hobbs
Johnston County FCS Agent

It’s no secret that we have been experiencing a heat wave lately. If you listen to the news as you get ready each morning, you have heard the reporters and meteorologists reminding everyone to stay hydrated and look out for one another. You can feel the heat and humidity, and you can see the plants beginning to wilt as they thirst for cooler temperatures and rain. People are very similar to plants. Without enough water, you begin to feel tired and wilted.

The average adult is made up of about 60% water, and the average adult brain is composed of about 70% water. Additionally, 92% of our blood plasma is made up of water, which contributes to 55% of our total blood volume being water. Water not only contributes to the composition of our bodies, but water functions within our bodies as well. Water is responsible for keeping our eyes, mouth, and nasal tissue moist, regulating our body temperature (which is especially important in these high temperatures), lubricating joints, and lessening the burden on our liver and kidneys as our bodies try to flush out toxins. Water dissolves minerals for our bodies to use appropriately, carries nutrients and oxygen to various cells, and aids in digestion.

We lose water through breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom. We are constantly losing water, so we need to be sure to replace it in order to keep moving and functioning properly. According to the Institutes of Medicine, adult men need to drink about 13 cups of water each day, and women need to drink about 9 cups per day. This is at least 64 oz. of water per day. If you are outside working, enjoying a day in the sun, or if you are very active, you need to drink even more water and be conscious of staying hydrated.

The very first sign of dehydration is often times forgotten- feeling thirsty. Thirst is your brain’s way of notifying you to drink more water. If you feel thirsty, you are already becoming dehydrated. Sometimes we don’t drink anything until we feel thirsty, and that isn’t the best practice. You want to drink water before you start to feel thirsty to ensure that you are staying hydrated. Decreased urine output is an additional signal of dehydration. When you go to bathroom, the color of your urine will tell you if you are dehydrated. Almost clear to light yellow coloration of urine is a good sign. Coloration darker than light yellow indicates dehydration. Headaches and dizziness may also indicate that you are dehydrated. Remember me mentioning that blood is made up of mostly water? When you become dehydrated, your blood does not have as much water composition. This can cause a rise in blood pressure, and headaches can be caused by increased blood pressure levels.

Drinking plenty of fluids is very important in staying hydrated. When choosing your fluids, be aware of the sugar content. Added sugar is most commonly associated with type 2 diabetes, but it is linked to heart disease as well. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24g of added sugar for women and children and no more than 36g for men. When I say “added sugar,” I am not talking about the natural sugars found in fruits, some vegetables, and dairy. I am talking about things like cane sugar, corn syrup, and ingredients ending in the letters “-ose” such as fructose. One 20-ounce Pepsi contains 69g of sugar- that’s nearly 3 days’ worth of sugar for women and children and nearly 2 days’ worth for men! Next time you pick up a sports drink, you might be surprised at the amount of sugar in just one serving. Drinking water keeps you hydrated and doesn’t have to be boring or flavorless. Try adding a cup of strawberries to a gallon of water and a few springs of mint or the juice of a lime. You can also eat your way to hydration by choosing foods with a high water-content such as watermelons, cucumbers, grapes, and bell peppers! Foods with a high water-content are good sources of hydration and are lower in calories.

If you love sodas for their carbonation and need a little bubbly to get started, try this cranberry-lime “soda”. For more recipes and to stay up to date with Extension programs and announcements, be sure to like the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Facebook page!