The Importance of Hydration: 10 Tips for a Healthy Summer
If it feels like you’ve been waiting all year for summer...well, you have! The sun is finally out, the grass is green, and you’re ready to partake in all those outdoor picnics, beautiful hikes, and perfect pool afternoons that you dreamed about all winter. But as the mercury rises this summer, you’ll need to pay close attention to one important aspect of your health: your hydration.
You see, our bodies are 60% water by weight, and proper hydration is absolutely essential for our overall health. After all, the water we consume optimizes blood pressure, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, moves waste out of the body, and aids in digestion.
And with increased summer temperatures and outdoor activities comes increased water loss—through sweating and evaporation—as your body works to stay cool.
What If We Don’t Get Enough Water?
Most of us associate dehydration—when more water is moving out of our body than we are taking in—with muscle cramps, fatigue, and extreme thirst. Indeed, these are just some of the consequences of subpar hydration. But, did you know that dehydration affects your brain as well?
Our brain is made up of around 73% water. If we don’t keep up with our water intake, especially in hot weather or while exercising, our thinking and cognition can suffer. In one study, adolescents who exercised for 90 minutes to a state of dehydration experienced significant shrinking of brain tissue1, much like a sponge left out to dry.
In fact, a 2% reduction in body water weight (a mere 3 pounds on a 150-pound person) can lead to problems with short-term memory, attention, and visual-motor tracking2. If you plan to use your noggin at all this summer (even if just to read the latest romance novel), keeping it well-lubricated is imperative.
Other signs that you may be dehydrated include loss of appetite, dry mouth, mild constipation, and temporary lightheadedness. A good measurement of your level of hydration is the color of your urine. Pale urine (the color of straw) indicates adequate hydration while darker colored urine is a sign that your body needs more fluids, pronto.
Ideas for Happy Hydrating
We know how important hydration is to our health, but the question remains, how do we increase our water intake without feeling water-logged or sprinting to the bathroom every five minutes?
Here are our top 10 tips for staying hydrated (and having fun doing it!) this summer:
1. Make sure you drink enough.
Recommendations vary depending on weight, age, and activity level but an easy one to remember is 8x8, or 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water each day. You can also divide your weight in pounds by 2 and drink that number in ounces. For example, a 130-pound female would need 65 ounces (135/2) of water per day. Many experts recommend drinking to thirst—if you are thirsty, drink!
2. Invest in a reusable water bottle. Skip throwaway plastic water bottles that harm the environment—20% end up in landfills—and buy a BPA-free refillable water bottle to help you track your water intake each day. If you’re mindful of keeping the bottle nearby, you’ll be much more likely to sip throughout the day.
3. Infuse with flavor. Whether you prefer limes, lemons, oranges, berries, or cucumbers, infusing your water with fresh fruit can make for a refreshing and spa-like beverage, without any added artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
4. Drink before you eat. We all can relate to that late-afternoon “must have a snack” hungry feeling. Before reaching for the nearest source of calories, drink some water! Sometimes our brains confuse thirst with hunger, so next time the feeling strikes, hydrate before eating and your hunger “pains” just might disappear.
5. Stick with H2O. Yes, juices, milk, and herbal teas can all help hydrate your body—even caffeinated drinks (in moderation) can provide you with much-needed water. However, water is what your body is really craving, so you might as well go straight to the source. Sticking with H2O will help you skip the unnecessary sugars, additives, and caffeine found in other drinks.
6. Make a water schedule. If it feels impossible to guzzle down 64 ounces in a single day, you may want to come up with a hydrating schedule. As soon as you wake up, make it a point to drink 10 ounces of water—after a night of fasting, your body will appreciate a morning quencher. Drinking a predetermined number of ounces throughout the day (such as at meals, and before, during, and after a workout) can also keep you on track.
7. Eat your way to hydration. The good news is that only 70-80% of your daily hydration needs to come from water; 20-30% should actually come from food! All whole fruits and vegetables contain some amount of water, but munch on these top picks for maximum benefit:
- 97% water: Cucumbers
- 96% water: Celery
- 95% water: Tomatoes, radishes
- 93% water: Red, yellow, green bell peppers
- 92% water: Cauliflower, watermelon
- 91% water: Spinach, strawberries, broccoli
- 90% water: Grapefruit
8. Prehydrate with soaked chia seeds. An ancient superfood that sustained the Aztec and Mayan peoples for generations, chia seeds are hydrating nutrient powerhouses. These tiny seeds are hydrophilic, meaning they absorb water (up to 12 times their weight!). When you consume water-logged chia seeds before exercise or a day in the sun, they will slowly release that water as your body digests them, keeping your system hydrated. Plus, they are a great source of Omega-3s and many other nutrients. Think of them as mini time-released water bottles!
9. Go for the coconut. Water that is. Coconut water is a mineral-rich liquid from the inside of young, green coconuts. Packed with potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium, coconut water can replenish lost fluids and electrolytes from exercise and hot summer temperatures. Try freezing coconut water ice cubes or pops for a refreshing, hydrating summer treat.
10. Take your probiotics. It’s true—maintaining good gut health helps keep you hydrated. Not only do beneficial bacteria help you absorb nutrients and electrolytes from food and drinks (which supports efficient hydration), but a strong microbiome helps keep away any harmful microbes that can cause temporary intestinal issues, leading to dehydration. And, bonus—probiotics support your skin hydration, too! Over 100 volunteers with wrinkles and dry skin took a probiotic or placebo for 12 weeks. In addition to increased skin elasticity and wrinkle reduction, at the end of the trial the probiotic group had increased water content in both the face and the hands 3.
Water is truly the elixir of life. As you experience all the wonderful milestones of summer, remember to drink plenty of water and eat a diet rich in hydrating whole fruits and vegetables to keep you going strong all summer long. Your body (and mind) will thank you!References:
1. Kempton, M. J., Ettinger, U., Foster, R., Williams, S. C., Calvert, G. A., Hampshire, A., . . . Smith, M. S. (2010). Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping, 32(1), 71-79.
2. Lieberman, H. R. (2007). Hydration and Cognition: A Critical Review and Recommendations for Future Research. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26(Sup5).
3. Lee, D. E., Huh, C., Ra, J., Choi, I., Jeong, J., Kim, S., . . . Ahn, Y. (2015). Clinical Evidence of Effects of Lactobacillus plantarum HY7714 on Skin Aging: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, 25(12), 2160-2168.
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.