August 18, 2023
The Heat is On: Staying Optimally Hydrated in the Hottest Summer on Record
Water is undeniably the most valuable resource on our planet. This elixir of life sustains and supports all ecosystems worldwide. Despite the abundance of clean water in the USA, a staggering 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated — a condition that occurs when the body consistently loses more fluids than it takes in, leading to various health problems. This alarming statistic becomes even more concerning when considering the potential impact of this summer's scorching heat on these numbers.
With these scorching temps here to stay, let’s explore the importance of optimal hydration, especially during the summer heat, and the steps individuals can take to ensure they stay well-hydrated.
The Value of Water:
Before delving into the issue of dehydration, let's briefly highlight the incredible value of water. Water is a finite resource, and while it covers about 71% of the Earth's surface, only a small percentage is fresh and readily available for human consumption.
Water is essential to keep our bodies functioning, aids digestion, regulates body temperature, and facilitates nutrient transport. Moreover, clean water is a basic human right, yet many regions around the world suffer from water scarcity and lack of access to safe drinking water.
In comparison to some other countries, Americans are fortunate to have relatively better access to clean water. Developed infrastructure and stringent water quality regulations have made tap water generally safe for consumption, but this does not excuse complacency, as the issue of dehydration persists even in developed nations. Factors such as busy lifestyles, reliance on sugary beverages, and a lack of awareness about proper hydration contribute to this problem.
The Summer Factor:
When your body gets depleted of water, a chain of events begins internally, leading to heat-related illness, which is traumatic to the body and requires time to recover. With the record temperatures across North America this summer, the risks are even more pronounced.
High temperatures and increased physical activity result in more substantial fluid loss through sweating. Severe dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heatstroke and worse, posing severe risks to health, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children.
According to the National Institute of Health, maintaining proper hydration improves physical and mental acuity and is vital for overall health and well-being — helping regulate body temperature, support cardiovascular health and enhance cognitive function. Moreover, being well-hydrated boosts energy levels, improves exercise performance and aids in weight management.
Research done by Dr. David Ferguson of the Spartan Motorsport Performance Lab at Michigan State University further illustrates this phenomenon. The data showed that a 1 to 1.5% body water loss is enough to inhibit exercise performance. If the water loss increases to 2.5%, it can negatively impact an individual's decision-making abilities and mental calculus. It is not unusual for athletes to exhibit poor decision-making and noticeable deterioration in mental and physical capabilities toward the end of competition. These same consequences apply to everyone if they fail to properly hydrate, particularly in excessive heat.
Let’s take a look at some common myths around hydration and set the record straight with the facts behind these ideas:
Myth: Consuming sports drinks are the best way to hydrate.
Fact: Pure water is the ultimate hydrator. It absorbs faster than any other liquid, and can be absorbed within 5-10 minutes after consumption.
Myth: Thirst is the best indicator of hydration.
Fact: When you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Myth: Drink as much water as possible to avoid dehydration — 8 glasses of water a day will do the trick!
Fact: As noted above, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated — many factors, including activity level, biometrics and environment impact hydration requirements.
Clearly, there is confusion and misinformation regarding the topic of hydration. This begs the question, “How can I ensure I get enough water?”
Tips for Staying Hydrated in the Heat:
There are many ways to make sure you stay optimally hydrated. The following tips can help determine how much water to drink when and provide practical advice on proper hydration decisions.
Set yourself up for success: The most effective way to meet your prescribed hydration recommendation is to continuously drink small amounts of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Eat Hydrating Foods: Consume water-rich foods like fruits (watermelon, strawberries, oranges) and vegetables (cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes) to supplement your water intake.
Avoid Excessive Caffeine and Alcohol: Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can contribute to dehydration. Limit your consumption of these drinks, especially in hot weather.
Set Hydration Reminders: In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it's easy to forget to drink water. Set reminders on your phone to prompt you to take regular water breaks.
Following these tips will help you on your personal hydration journey, keeping your body properly regulated.
A Flood of Information:
There has been a lot of information presented here. If you’re looking for a quick summary, the bottom line takeaways are that water is indeed the most precious resource on Earth, and staying optimally hydrated is crucial for maintaining good health — especially during the heat of summer.
All of us at FluidLogic hope that by raising awareness about the importance of hydration and following simple tips to stay hydrated, we can collectively make optimal hydration a priority and beat the heat together!