By Leilana McKindra
Special to The Sun
It is easy to down water by the gallon during the hot, steamy summer months, but staying hydrated is important year-round. Thankfully, we have plenty of choices when it comes to achieving that goal.
Our bodies need fluid in order to perform many important functions, but that fluid does not always have to be water, said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.
“Drinking plain water is great, but consuming milk, 100 percent fruit juice, and even some fruits and vegetables counts, too,” she said.
Interestingly, caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and soda also are options for meeting your fluid needs, but you should try limiting the amount of caffeine you consume to 300 milligrams (mg) or less per day. Consider an 8-ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee typically contains 85 mg, while an 8-ounce cup of tea or a 12-ounce serving of a soft drink contains 40 mg.
Staying hydrated means balancing the fluid you drink and consume and the fluid your body loses through perspiration, breathing, going to the bathroom and other bodily functions. Because water needs vary depending on a person’s diet, physical activity, outside temperature and humidity, a general recommendation on the appropriate amount of fluid we should drink each day is difficult to set.
However, a common recommendation is to drink 6-8 cups of fluid each day in addition to what you get from solid foods.
“One of the keys to making sure you get enough fluid is to pick something you like,” Hermann said. “If you don’t like water, maybe drink milk or 100 percent juice, but remember most beverages, other than water, have calories.”
Regardless of your fluid of choice, look for opportunities to get it in throughout the day. For instance, if you do a lot of driving during the day, make sure to stash water in your car, or if you spend most of your day at your desk, keep your favorite beverage nearby.
Do not forget that soups, as well as “watery” fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, carrots and apples are solid sources of fluid.
A strategy for staying hydrated during exercise is to spread fluid intake throughout the workout by drinking before, during and after physical activity. If it is hot, humid or the exercise session is long, more fluid may be needed.
Although thirst is frequently the first sign of dehydration, other symptoms include dry mouth, headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, sluggishness, fainting and muscle cramps.
“It’s definitely possible to become dehydrated even when it’s not hot outside, so it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough fluid each day,” Hermann said.