With the warmer weather and longer days of sunshine, many of us find ourselves spending more time outdoors.  While it is important to stay well hydrated year-round, adequate hydration often comes to mind during the summer months.

Many factors determine your hydration needs.  Certain medical conditions, medications, weather and exercise all impact how much you should drink.  You may have heard that you should drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day.  This is fine as a guide, but a doctor or dietitian can determine your specific fluid needs.  According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the best ways to check your hydration status is by evaluating the color of your urine.  Your urine should be almost colorless or light yellow if you are adequately hydrated.

Now that you know how to spot check your hydration, what are some of the signs of dehydration, or lack of adequate fluid?  In addition to dark colored urine, other symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, confusion, dry mouth, dry skin, rapid heartbeat, and infrequent urination.

Many people think a sense of thirst will keep you from dehydrating.  It is important to remember that some people may have a diminished sense of thirst, forget to drink, and might already be slightly dehydrated by the time they feel thirsty.

What are you thirsty for?  You can drink whatever you like, but be sure to limit caffeine, alcohol, and high calorie/high sugar containing beverages such as soda, juice, punches, energy drinks, and other specialty drinks.  According to the FDA, caffeine should be limited to 400mg per day, which is about the equivalent of 4-5 cups of coffee per day.  Coffee, tea and other caffeine containing drinks can be counted toward your fluid needs, but remember to stay under the recommended caffeine limit.  As for limiting alcohol, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate drinking as one alcoholic beverage per day for women, and two for men.

You can also eat your fluids!  Fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, berries, oranges, pineapple, and apples contain up to 80% water.  Vegetables also contain a significant amount of water, including lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, tomato, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli.  It is estimated that about 20% of your fluid needs are often met by food.

Eating and drinking fluids, and checking your urine are important ways to stay adequately hydrated.  Here are a few more tips to help you stay on track.  Take a few sips during each TV commercial, have a cup at your chair/desk/bedside/car, have a drink before and during meals, take frequent water breaks during exercise, snack on fruits and vegetables, and set goals to drink a certain amount by a certain time of the day.

To conclude, frequent trips to the bathroom should never be a deterrent to drinking enough fluid.  Remember that fluid balance can be delicate, and it is always important to consult your physician about your unique needs.  Happy hydrating!

Article Written By:

Hayley Daubert, MPH, RDN, LDN

Meals on Wheels Consultant Dietitian