By Jacob Gerdes, Arizona State Nutrition Communications Student
Living in the desert, you are often asked, “Are you drinking enough water?” At a point we all might get sick of being asked this question, but the Arizona Department of Health Services notes that each year nearly 2,000 people visit the emergency room due to heat-related illnesses; dehydration playing a main role in these situations. As we all know the summer heat in the desert is nothing to be messed with and as much as we like to think we are responsibly hydrating, most likely, we could use more water.
Just as our bodies need macro-nutrients such as protein, fats, and carbohydrates, water is a necessity, if not the most important; and our bodies need it for many different reasons.
The Mayo Clinic lists the functions of water in the body that include:
- Moistening body tissues
- Regulating body temperature
- Cushioning organs and tissues
- Aid in regular bowel movements
- Dissolve minerals and nutrients for the body to utilize
- Aid body detoxification by flushing waste from kidney and liver
- Serve as a carrier for Oxygen and other nutrients
Just think, as we become dehydrated, all of these body functions will be affected to some extent; some these instances can be life threatening.
The easiest ways to avoid any dehydration-related issues are to drink water, stay cool, and take it easy. Your daily run can wait till the sun goes down, or can find it’s way to a treadmill. Many people like to think the more you sweat, the greater the benefit of the workout is. This is not the case. For example, take two runners training for a marathon; have one train in a heated environment, and the other train in a cooler climate. The difference between each runner will be the runner training in the heat will sweat more; there will be no difference in increasing their cardiovascular threshold. The same applies to all other sports. There are specific endurance athletes where training in the heat prepares them to deal with realistic heat of an event they’re training for, but most likely they are professionals taking the necessary precautions by balancing their fluid loss.
Coming from a former soccer player who has ended up in the hospital due to dehydration, save yourself the money and hydrate accordingly. Mayo Clinic notes that thirst is not a good indicator of hydration, rather you should use the color of your urine. When you use the bathroom, a sign of hydration is light-colored urine and dehydration is signaled by dark colors.
While you sweat, water is not the only thing you lose. You excrete waste as well as crucial minerals that are very important for the regulation of fluid as well as other functions in the body. The U.S National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus defines electrolytes as minerals in your blood and bodily fluids that carry an electric charge. There must be a balance within these charged minerals in order to maintain different bodily functions. Water is always great to hydrate with but sometimes your body requires more in order to regain what you have lost. When you are trying to figure out which electrolyte replacement beverage to drink, stick with any low sugar drinks.
If you’re curious about possible times you might have over-hydrated, there are only a few instances in which this can happen. Clear urine is the goal but just remember similar to the way you sweat and lose electrolytes, you can also over-hydrate and urinate too many of those important charged minerals and suffer from water intoxication.
It is important to stay hydrated all hours of the night and day. UCLA Sleep Disorders Center notes that it takes around 90-minutes for the body to process water and that drinking a large amount of water before bed can lead to waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Instead, drink a little water before bedtime to get you through the night and really focus on hydration in the morning. This will help you reduce the acidity of your blood; having numerous benefits including aiding the prevention of inflammation; inflammation being the source of chronic disease in the body.
To sum it all up, your body needs water to function, along with electrolytes. Summer is here and that means this hot weather requires more caution on our part. So remember to avoid the heat when possible and drink-drink-drink in order to prevent any unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
- Arizona Department of Health Services. Extreme Weather and Public Health: Heat Safety. Accessed April 2016. URL: http://www.azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/extreme-weather/index.php#heat-illness
- Mayo Clinic. Functions of Water In The Body. Accessed April 2016. URL: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/functions-of-water-in-the-body/img-20005799
- Mayo Clinic. Dehydration: Basics and Symptoms. Accessed April 2016. URL: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/basics/symptoms/con-20030056
- Dugdale DC. Medline Plus. Electrolytes. August 2013. URL: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002350.htm
- UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. Sleep and Health: Sleeping Well to Live Well. Accessed April 2016. URL: http://sleepcenter.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=61