As you swelter this summer dont forget about the most important substance to put in your body, water.
If you think of your body as a machine, water is the ”oil” that keeps everything working smoothly. Even if you do nothing special, your body loses about three quarts of water a day through elimination, urination, perspiration and respiration. This loss is usually replaced by the water in foods and drinks without your having to think much about it. To be on the safe side, try to drink at least six to eight eight-ounce glasses a day. You can get just as dehydrated in cold weather as in hot, but this time without realizing how dry you are. In many cool weather activities – running, tennis, hiking, ice skating, skiing, traveling by air or simply visiting at high altitudes – you can easily lose a quart or more of water before your thirst signal lets you know it.
A quart or two might not sound like much when you learn that the average adult body contains 40 to 50 quarts of water, 40 percent of which is found inside cells. But with a loss of just 5 percent of body water (about 2 1/2 quarts), your skin shrinks and muscles become weak. You may feel fatigued, irritable, dizzy, headachy and drained of energy. In fact, the debilitation many people felt in last summer’s heat wave may have been due as much to insufficient hydration as to the heat and humidity.
Thirst, unfortunately, is not much help. It’s a signal evolution designed to prevent severe dehydration. It kicks in when your body is in serious trouble, long after you should have begun drinking water to replenish your losses. The thirst signal shuts off well before you’ve drunk enough. So you cannot afford to rely on thirst; you must use knowledge and good sense.
Furthermore, the beverages many people choose to quench thirst are often counterproductive. Instead of hydrating the body, they are diuretics that cause the body to lose water. Among popular diuretic beverages are all alcohol-containing drinks and caffeinated tea, coffee and soft drinks. Or the chosen beverages may be so loaded with dissolved solids (sugared drinks and milk, for example) that they increase the body’s water needs rather than satisfy them.
Plain water, with or without carbonation, is the best way to replace lost water. Cold water is absorbed faster than hot. Second best are tomato and other vegetable juices, pure unsweetened fruit juices diluted with water or seltzer and decaffeinated coffee and tea. On cold days you might try hot water with lemon or lime juice.
You may not seem to sweat much when the air is dry and cool, but you do. Sweating is your body’s primary cooling mechanism. when your muscles are working hard. You may be unaware of the perspiration because it evaporates so quickly. Also, a lot of moisture is lost unnoticed when you breathe rapidly. (Those are water droplets that create the ”smoke” you exhale on very cold days.) A good rule is to weigh yourself unclothed before your workout and then again right afterward. Drink one pint (16 ounces) of water for every pound you lose. You do not have to worry about replacing the salt lost in sweating unless you have dropped 5 to 10 pounds in an event.
Cold water is the fastest and safest way to hydrate an ordinary athlete. Sports drinks, like Gatorade, which contain sugar and salt, were intended for superathletes, like marathoners, long-distance cyclists and triathletes, whose events last for hours. It is best to avoid carbonated drinks when exercising, since they can cause bloating and stomach cramps.
* Illness. Common symptoms of illness, including fever, diarrhea and vomiting, can severely deplete the body of water. The resulting dehydration can make you feel even worse and compound the ailment by disabling the body’s ability to fight off and flush out infectious organisms. Adequate water is also important to countering congestion when you have a cold or cough. If dehydration becomes severe, it could result in an attack of kidney stones or gout.