You spend most of your day outside, so you are aware of the heat-related illnesses and other associated hazards from the sun. Therefore, you have applied your sunscreen, are wearing clothing designed to cool the body, are equipped with sunglasses to shield your eyes from UV rays, and carry a reusable bottle filled with a chilled drink for hydration. But what exactly is inside that bottle? You may be surprised that even the most common summertime drinks may not always be the best options to keep your body hydrated.
It is probably of no surprise that water is one of the best natural sources of hydration for the body. There is a long list of health benefits of drinking water, from delivering oxygen throughout the body (after all, the blood that carries oxygen throughout the body is 90% water) and regulating body temperature to aiding in the digestive process and supporting proper functionality of the kidneys.
So how much water should you drink? You have probably heard the recommended 8×8 rule: Drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day. But the truth is, there is no magic number for properly hydrating the body. In fact, everyone’s body needs a different amount of water, and that amount may change daily depending on health conditions (such as kidney stones, pregnancy, or fever), as well as the body’s physical effort and environmental impact (such as performing physical labor for eight hours in direct sunlight).
But what if you can’t stomach the thought of drinking one more glass of water? There are great alternatives to water that you can consume throughout the day that aid in adequate hydration– and there are also some not so good options.
Before you fill your bottle this summer, consider the following:
The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool app provides workers cautionary heat-safety information right on their mobile device. Visit OSHA’s website for more information.
Add fruit to water. Looking for a way to rejuvenate the sometimes-bland taste of water? Water can easily be refreshed by simply adding fruit, such as a lemon slice or a few cut strawberries.
Eat foods that contain high amounts of water. Hydration doesn’t solely come from a water bottle. Foods such as tomatoes, soups, and watermelon have a high content of water which contribute to properly hydrating the body.
Explore other natural waters. Many grocery and health food stores now carry water from plants and vegetables that contain a hint of flavor. These waters include aloe, maple, watermelon, cucumber, and coconut water. Be aware, though, of how much (if any) sugar may have been added to these drinks.
Sports drinks may be high in electrolytes— and sugar. Sports drinks not only provide electrolytes to nourish the body, but also contain carbohydrates, which replenish blood sodium. When choosing a sports drink, pick one that contains 6-8% carbohydrates. Coconut water contains naturally occurring electrolytes and is a great alternative to sports drinks. But as already mentioned, be mindful of the drink’s added sugar content.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics. Simply put, a diuretic is a substance that results in an increased amount of urine. Therefore, instead of the liquid in alcohol and caffeine remaining in the body for nourishment, an increased amount of liquid is eliminated from the body instead.
Of course, as much as you strive to hydrate the body, you should also be mindful of signs of dehydration while working, playing, or exercising in the summer heat. Common signs and symptoms of dehydration include: