Your body is composed of about 60% water. Two thirds of that water is used inside your cells to produce energy and eliminate waste. The other third is in between your cells and in your blood plasma. Water between your cells helps regulate your body temperature and cushion your joints and muscles. Plasma is an important component of circulating your blood and maintaining your blood volume. If your blood volume is low, you are at risk for low blood pressure (hypotension) and decreased heart function.
Staying well hydrated helps your cells produce energy efficiently. Muscle and brain cells are especially dependent on hydration for high level functioning. When your body loses more water than it takes in, you can become dehydrated. The body loses 2-3 liters of water a day, mainly through urination. A significant amount of water is also lost through the skin as perspiration (sweat). You can easily get dehydrated when you are exercising or working outside if you don’t replace the fluids you sweat out. Signs of dehydration include increased thirst, decreased urination, dark yellow or brown urine, fatigue, confusion, dry skin, dry mouth and heat intolerance. Dehydration can make you feel cranky, give you a headache or cramps, or worse- you could even suffer from a stroke!
The best way to stay hydrated and avoid dehydration when working or playing outside is to drink water before, during, and after your workout or job. Dehydration begins before you feel thirsty, so it is important to begin hydration early. Drink fluids at least every 20-30 minutes during exercise or play. Water is preferred over sugary drinks for hydration. For intense exercise lasting longer than 30-40 minutes, sports drinks are recommended for hydration because sodium and other electrolytes are also lost in sweat.
When you’re working or exercising outside, avoid drinks that contain alcohol, high levels of sugar and high levels of caffeine. Caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics and increase water loss. We get most of our water by drinking fluids, but we also get some from food such as fruits and vegetables. If you don’t like to drink plain water, jazz it up by adding cucumber, lemon, lime or orange slices to your water bottle for a healthy taste of sweetness without unhealthy additives.