As an avid runner, certified running coach, and veteran of a variety of marathons, Nicole Cassel knows the importance of proper hydration.
She understands it so well, in fact, that she actually makes hydration plans before logging longer runs – like the 40-mile solo run she completed to celebrate her 40th birthday.
“I went out the night before and stashed my water bottles and some high water-content food along the route to ensure I had of plenty of hydration to sustain my run,” says Cassel, senior health education consultant at Capital Blue Cross. “I knew it was important to replenish with the proper nutrients, including water, every 45 to 60 minutes to be able to endure the total mileage, keep my body from experiencing muscle cramps, and maintain my energy.”
Cassel couldn’t have finished those 40 miles minus those planned fueling pick-ups. But you needn’t be a marathoner to require proper hydration.
Exercisers and non-exercisers alike must replenish vital fluids, particularly as we enter summer’s most sweltering stretch. Failure to do so, says Johns Hopkins Medicine, may put our bodies at risk of being unable to cool themselves, raising our internal temperature and potentially leading to heat stroke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that dehydration can cause foggy thinking, overheating, mood swings, and constipation. Prolonged dehydration cases, the Mayo Clinic reports, can even trigger urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and kidney failure.
“It’s important to drink several glasses of water daily to stay well hydrated,” advises Debi Garzon, a registered dietitian with Capital Blue Cross. “However, you can also complement your water intake by eating foods high in water content. Fresh produce is your best source for hydrating foods – things like watermelon, cucumber, strawberries, celery, tomatoes and zucchini, to name a few.”
Statistics suggest too few Americans follow such advice. One study of more than 15,000 Americans concluded that 43% of men and 41% of women aged 20 to 50 fall short of the daily water intake urged by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. Those age 50-70 drank even less, and those 71 and older were the worst offenders: 95% of men and 83% of women in that age group didn’t drink enough water.
Keep It Flowing
We can all lower the health and low-energy risks associated with low hydration, and there are resources available to help.
Many covered by their employer’s Capital Blue Cross health plans, for instance, have access to the health insurer’s “Wat’r You Drinking” initiatives. Capital’s “Wat’r You Drinking Challenge” – which Capital also offers to its own staff – is a 30-day water-drinking program that helps participants better hydrate throughout the day. “Wat’r You Drinking Live” is a 30-minute onsite or virtual presentation that teaches the health benefits of drinking water and discusses how to make healthy drink choices and increase daily water intake.
Garzon also suggests these hydration tips:
Begin the day with a glass of fresh water or water infused with things like a favorite fruit free of artificial sweeteners or sugars.
Steadily drink water throughout the day. A general rule is to drink half your body weight – in ounces – daily. So a 200-pound man should drink roughly 100 ounces of water.
Eat foods with high water content such as cucumbers (95% water), melons (92% water), or strawberries (91% water).
Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine.
Before reaching for a snack, drink some water. We often mistake thirst for hunger.
If that’s too many pointers to track, don’t fret. Garzon summarizes proper summer hydration with one key principle: “Remember that when you sweat you are losing fluids, so make sure to sip water throughout the day!”