Our recent heat wave caught me by surprise not realizing how dehydrated I actually was. After a usual bike ride I quickly noted I was suffering from heat exhaustion. I know I know… every cell, tissue and organ needs water to function correctly however, I was not paying careful attention to my bodies signals and with the heat wave we were having I had not been drinking enough water to keep myself hydrated. Our bodies use water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. It makes up a large percentage of blood which brings oxygen and nutrients throughout our bodies. Vital processes, like our immune systems depend on it. Every day we lose water when we sweat, urinate and even breathe and with hot weather we lose water even faster.
We are made up of about 60 percent water. The lungs are 90 percent water, the brain is 70 percent and our blood is more than 80 percent. Thirst begins after we are mildly dehydrated. This means we shouldn’t wait until we’re thirsty to begin hydrating. Studies on dehydration and the body indicate that we suffer deficits in coordination, work capacity and mental sharpness when we are dehydrated.
Dehydration and Its Effects
With our ever changing weather it seems summer months are hotter than it has ever been in California and if you’re not properly hydrated you may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness or more serious symptoms. Many of us remember to drink water only after our bodies are already dehydrated. A simple way to detect this is through the color of your urine. Dark yellow or amber color is a sign of dehydration.
Our kidneys function more efficiently when there is plenty of water in our bodies. If the kidneys have to economize on water, more energy is needed for the kidneys to function and that results in wear and tear on their tissues. Dehydration inhibits the effectiveness of our lymphatic system and allows cellular waste products to sit longer in our bodies creating inflammation and reducing the overall volume of blood and lymphatic fluids that are important for our bodies healthy immune system responses.
Over time dehydration can cause central nervous system diseases such as vascular disorders, Parkinson’s, muscular sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s disease, periphrial neuropathy, Alzheimer’s and urinary tract infection. By eating lots of fruits and vegetables we can help keep our bodies hydrated. Try Iceberg and romaine lettuce, kale, mustard greens, cabbage, spinach, carrots and red tomatoes; melons, coconut, grapefruit, cucumbers, pears, strawberries, apples, blueberries or mangoes.
How Much Should You Drink?
The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly 13 cups of total beverages a day. For women it is about 9 cups and this includes fruit juices and herbal teas.
When thinking about exercising and water intake there are no set guidelines. Heat, humidity, intensity and duration are all factors to consider. The American Council on Fitness recommends these basic water intake guidelines for people doing moderate-to-high intensity exercise:
17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising, 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up, 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.