How to stay hydrated in the summer heat

Keep your body healthy and energy high by drinking plenty of fluids

As temperatures climb and local beaches and parks beckon Angelenos to get outside for some summer fun, it’s essential to stay hydrated.

“Approximately 60% of our body is made up of water,” says Sarah Adler, MS, RD, a performance dietitian with UCLA Health Sports Performance, Powered by Exos. “So we need to make sure we’re replenishing our losses, especially with increased sweating in the summer.”

Maintaining body temperature is just one of the reasons it's important to stay hydrated in the heat of summer. (Photo by Joshua Sudock/UCLA Health)

Proper hydration helps regulate body temperature, support brain function and mood, and keep our joints lubricated and our digestion smooth, Adler says.

Though we’ve all heard the eight-glasses-a-day (about 64 ounces) recommendation, hydration needs vary from person to person and change depending on heat, humidity and activity levels. As a general guideline, Adler suggests individuals consume ½ ounce to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. People who are playing sports or working outdoors in hot weather should aim for a minimum of 1 ounce of fluid per pound of body weight, she says.

“We may need more, we may need less,” Adler says, adding that thirst isn’t always the best measure of hydration levels.

Thirst may not kick in until we’re already dehydrated, she says. Thirst cues also can diminish with age.

A more reliable sign of hydration levels is urine color, Adler says.

“If it is apple-juice color, we’re not hydrated. That’s when we really need to double down on hydration,” she says. “We like when it’s that light, pale yellow color. That tells us we’re staying on top of it.”

Other indicators of dehydration include fatigue; dizziness; lightheadedness; dry mouth and/or lips; and infrequent urination, typically fewer than four times a day.

How to hydrate

Water isn’t the only thing that contributes to overall hydration. Foods with high water content and other beverages count, too.

Hydrating foods include:

  • Watermelon and other melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
Melons are among the foods with high water content.

These foods “add to overall hydration status, but we still want to be hitting that baseline of at least half our body weight in ounces,” Adler says.

Juices and popsicles can replenish fluids as well, but as these choices tend to be high in sugar, they are best consumed in moderation, she says: “We should be keeping added sugars to less than 10% of our total caloric intake.”

Adler also recommends staying cool this summer by making your own hydrating popsicles at home: Grab popsicle molds and sticks, blend up your favorite fruit with coconut water, freeze and enjoy. Watermelon, lime and raw honey with coconut water is another mixture Adler loves.

Fizzy water is as hydrating as flat, though it can lead to feelings of bloating or fullness. Even coffee counts toward our daily fluid totals, though Adler encourages drinking water alongside your cup of Joe.

“Having a glass of water before your morning coffee can wake up your gastrointestinal tract and improve digestion, especially if we’re waking up slightly dehydrated,” she says. “Coffee is also acidic and can be harsh on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, so I always recommend water – and breakfast – first and foremost.”

Beer and other drinks that contain alcohol are not the best choice when it comes to staying hydrated, however. Alcohol is dehydrating, so it’s important to have at least one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed.

Is it possible to overhydrate?

Overhydration, a rare condition with symptoms that include confusion, nausea and vomiting, can occur when a person consumes excessive amounts of water without sufficient electrolytes to balance the body. Electrolytes are essential minerals, such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, that, among other things, help the body regulate fluid levels.

Sarah Adler, MS, RD, is a performance dietitian with UCLA Health Sports Performance, Powered by Exos.

“Electrolytes help us hold onto some of that water by maintaining optimal fluid balance in the body, and therefore stay better hydrated,” Adler says.

Most people get adequate electrolytes from food, she says, adding that bananas, avocados, potatoes, legumes, melons, dairy foods and dark, leafy greens are all good sources of essential minerals. Athletes and people who sweat heavily may need supplemental electrolytes, which can be found in sports drinks such as Gatorade or in powdered supplements that can be added to water.

Make water interesting

Some people find plain water boring, which makes drinking enough of it to stay hydrated feel like a chore.

Adding electrolyte powder can make it more interesting. Adler also suggests flavoring water with fresh fruit — lemon, mint and strawberry are a few of her favorites.

There are apps that track water intake, which can inspire goal-oriented folks to drink up.

Adler’s No. 1 tip? Keep a refillable water bottle on hand at all times.

“That’s a huge one,” she says. “You’re not going to stay hydrated if you aren’t prepared.”

If you have questions about proper hydration, contact your primary care physician.


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