Ask Stephie: Staying hydrated: Drinking enough water this summer

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I have talked about the importance of consuming enough water in previous articles, and most of us have heard that we need the minimum requirement of eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, it is easy to fall into a state of mild dehydration, especially when you add the heat and humidity of our summer weather.

Water plays the important role of keeping you healthy by hydrating your cells and helping your body eliminate toxins and waste products. Even partial dehydration can dramatically affect the way you feel and can cause problems like constipation, headaches, and constant fatigue. In fact, on average, adults can lose more than 2 liters of water a day, simply by sweating, breathing and eliminating wastes. In general, the following signs are suggestive of dehydration:

Increasing thirst

Dry mouth

Weakness or lightheadedness (particularly if worsening on standing)

Darkening of the urine, or a decrease in urination.

Our bodies are about two-thirds water, so it is important we keep ourselves properly hydrated to maintain good health and daily performance. The following tips should help you keep adequately hydrated this summer and beyond:

1. Try not to wait until you are thirsty to drink water. As we get older, our sense of thirst becomes less apparent, so we are more likely to go for longer periods without drinking anything.

2. Coffee, tea, soda, lemonade, alcohol, etc. do NOT count as water or hydrating fluids. These types of beverages act as diuretics and actually lead to more water being lost from the body. Plus, alcohol causes dehydration and interferes with circulation.

3. The kind of water you consume is just as important as how much you drink, and drinking unfiltered tap water is not ideal for your health, because it can contain contaminants and pollutants. Choose clean and pure water, such as reverse osmosis or high-quality bottled water that has been filtered and purified.

4. Commonly used drugs such as anti-depressants, decongestants, antihistamines, and appetite suppressants can interfere with the production of saliva and promote dehydration within the body. Drinking extra water throughout the day can help prevent that from happening.

5. Adults need 16 to 20 ounces of fluid before beginning activity, as well as an additional 8 to 10 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during activity. Your fluid needs don’t stop when your activity is over—you should consume 24 ounces of fluid within the first two hours after outdoor activity.

6. Children need 4 to 8 ounces of fluid before beginning outdoor activities, and 6 to 10 ounces every 20 minutes while they are outside. Once kids return from outside play or activity, they also need to consume 24 ounces of fluids within the first two hours after they stopped their activities.

7. Sports drinks, which usually contain 6-8 percent carbohydrate, can be beneficial only for intense exercise activities lasting longer than 90 minutes. Keep in mind that most of the “athletic drinks” on the market are loaded with sugar and might give you a temporary burst of energy, but it will be short-lived and be followed by a “sugar low.” Try diluting these types of drinks with purified water.

Dehydration can usually be corrected by drinking fluids. But if you faint or feel weak or dizzy every time you stand up, or if you have very little urine output, you should call your doctor.

I hope you will find these tips useful as we ride out the rest of the summer. Cheers!

Stephie Steele is owner of Symmetry Fitness, LLC. She has been featured in IDEA Health & Fitness Source magazine and specializes in weight loss, sports performance, total body fitness, posture alignment therapy, strength training, core conditioning, cardiovascular and flexibility training. Visit her Web site at or e-mail her with questions at

from the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2007, issue

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