Thirsty? We all know we’re supposed to drink water, but few of us get enough – especially during the summer months. We often reach for juice, sugary drinks, cocktails, tea or even food to quench our thirst, but the truth is, these simply accelerate our dehydrated state.
Imagine, the average person can lose up to 2 litres of water a day just by perspiring, breathing and bowel movements. Throw in increased heat, additional exercise, sugar, caffeine and/or alcohol, and we’re shrivelling up.
By the time we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated because the thirst sensation is delayed. At even 1% dehydration, heat regulation is altered and physical performance begins to decline.
A simple test for dehydration is the colour of of urine. Dehydration is marked by a deep yellow colour whereas a properly hydrated body will produce lightly coloured waste. Constipation (less than 1 bowel movement a day) is another sign of dehydration because the body requires water to process and remove waste. My kids think I’m a little manic, but I always ask to see the colour of their pee and ask if they’ve “pooped” so that I can gauge their overall health status and how their bodies are performing.
Beyond the bathroom, there are three stages that occur in dehydration that all parents should watch for so we can help our children (and ourselves) stay happy and hydrated this summer.
Heat cramps (muscle spasms, twitching, jerking) are a sign of an electrolyte deficiency and the body is already 6 – 8 % dehydrated. Electrolytes control our nerve and muscle functions, blood pH, blood pressure and the repair of damage tissues. Electrolytes and at least 500mL of water are recommended at this state.
Heat exhaustion occurs when we are dehydrated beyond 10% and our bodies produce more heat than they can release. In this situation, immediate attention is required and signs include cold/clammy skin, nausea, weak pulse and sweating has ceased.
Heat stroke is one step beyond. The body fails to regulate its core temperature, can reach a temperature of 105F and signs include lack of sweating, rapid pulse, prolonged headaches, confusion and even blackouts.
If you suspect heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you should seek immediate medical attention.
How much water should you drink?
Well, depends on the size of a person. A person who weighs 95 lbs needs a lot less than another who weighs 150. Throw in various levels of exercise and diet discrepancies, and the numbers change again! But don’t fear. Here are some easy tips that will help you figure out how much you and your family members need on a daily basis.
The average rule of thumb for maintenance (avoiding dehydration) is to take a person’s weight in pounds, divide it by 2 and that’s how many ounces of water that person needs. So, a person who weighs 150 pounds requires 75 ounces of water. That equates approximately 9.5 cups (250mL) of water daily.
Exercise and Water
If you or your children exercise, you need to proportionally increase your intake. Also, playing soccer, tennis or running in a extreme heat is a bit more taxing than lawn bowling. Use common sense.
For intense activity, drink 250 – 500mL of water about 1 – 1.5 hours in advance. Try to drink ½ cup to 1 cup every 15 minutes during the activity and then up to 1L fluid per hour for 3 hours (for 90 minutes or more of intense exercise, like soccer, running).
Electrolytes and Carbohydrates
If you are involved in intense exercise for more than 90 minutes – or if you sweat a lot (i.e., during a run, spin class or hot yoga) – you should use an electrolyte and carbohyrate replacement. Electrolytes are a combination sodium, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate, chloride, hydrogen phosphate and hydrogen carbonate.
Carbohydrates are a form of energy. During exercise, our bodies use the carbohydrates available in our blood and will break down muscle for an additional energy source. By keeping our bodies fueled with both electrolytes and carbohydrates during exercise, we support both performance and recovery.
Coconut water is a popular drink among some sport enthusiasts while the neon sugar coated beverages are popular among most kids. However, you can create the same at home, for a fraction of the cost. While it may lack the attractive packaging, I’m sure you will learn to love how your body feels with a more natural approach. You can also tweak with flavours to create one that is just your own to keep you moving and grooving all summer long.
DIY Electrolyte Recipe
2 tbsp organic honey or maple syrup (short, medium and long chain carbohydrates)
500 mL water
½ tsp salt (sea salt)
½ lemon or orange squeezed (for flavour)
Shake and go!