It’s summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime well, almost. And if you are like most people, you will be enjoying the great outdoors with all sorts of sports and recreation. Fishing, hiking, biking, triking, gardening, jogging, walking the dog the list goes on and on. But one thing that all of these different activities have in common is the danger of: DEHYDRATION! Dehydration is a condition that is caused when you sweat out more water than you take in. Your body needs H2O in order to function.
If your body becomes dehydrated, the first sign, of course, is that you will become thirsty. Do not ignore this thirst. DRINK SOME WATER! Drinking water is the best thing because that is what your body needs to stay hydrated. Drinking sodas or beer or sports drinks is okay in moderation, but drinking too many of these other beverages can actually make you thirstier.
Many of these drinks have high levels of sodium in them and sodium is counteractive to hydration. Sodium dries out your cells rather than hydrates them. That’s why the use sodium to cure meats for long term storage, the sodium removes all of the moisture from the meat and the moisture is what will cause it to rot.
Staying hydrated will help prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke because when you become hot you sweat. Sweat is your body’s cooling mechanism and you lose a lot of water when you sweat. And without water you can’t sweat, if you don’t sweat you overheat; thus, heatstroke. See how important drinking enough water is?
On the other hand, you don’t want to drink TOO much water. Drinking too much water can cause a condition known as water intoxication and this may lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which is over-dilution of the sodium in your body.
The body is an intricate electro-chemical machine. All things must be in balance in order for the body to function properly. If this chemical balance becomes, well, imbalanced, this can cause many problems for you, including death. Sodium is what is known as an e3lectrolyte. The body needs electrolytes to function. Indeed, some sports drinks (gator-something comes to mind) are a good source of electrolytes, but you can consume too much of this as well and cause an imbalance in the other direction.
So, drink water, but not too much. Consume electrolytes, but not too much. Now it’s just getting confusing, right? Well, maybe. But the important thing to remember here is that healthy adult kidneys can process about 15 liters (about 4 gallons) daily, so it isn’t very likely that you will get water intoxication, although it is possible. The idea is to not drink too much water at once.
On average, a healthy adult needs about 3 quarts, (about 2 ½ liters) daily. Severe conditions such as strenuous activity or high temperatures can raise this intake requirement. Just remember when you are exerting yourself, or exposed to heat, drink water. Don’t drink a gallon at once and don’t drink gallons and gallons in one day. Drink enough to replace what you lose sweating, and throw a few electrolytes like sodium and sugar in there. Lemonade or iced tea, sports drinks or a soda are adequate to get these in a pinch, just don’t drink too many.
Remember, the body’s systems are on a delicate balance and keeping this balance will keep the machine running. Proper hydration is similar to proper nutrition. The body needs certain amounts of certain nutrients to function at its peak, just as it needs proper hydration and electrolyte levels. So, drink up! Just don’t drink too much.