Dehydration may leave you feeling irritable, confused, anxious, and tired. Dehydration can also impair concentration and short-term memory. And, if you are exercising in the heat when dehydrated, chances are exercise may feel harder than it actually is. Plus, your exercise performance will likely suffer.
Despite the many potential downfalls associated with dehydration, approximately 50% of people walk around dehydrated. And, if you are dehydrated, thirst can lag behind fluid needs, so you’ll feel the effects of dehydration before your body tells you it’s time to drink. In fact, dehydration might reach a 2 to 3 percent decrease in body weight before you feel thirsty.
How much fluid do you need each day? Everyone’s fluid needs are different and depend on heat and humidity, altitude, exercise, body size, and clothing and equipment worn. Acclimation to heat, humidity, and altitude also make a difference. Therefore, it’s impossible to give one fluid guideline for all people. However, you can start with general recommendations for sedentary adults in temperate climates: 2.7 liters (91.3 fl. oz., or 11.4 cups) of fluid daily for women and 3.7 liters (125.1 fl. oz., or 15.6 cups) for men from both fluid and food. The majority of a person’s fluid needs, approximately 81%, come from drinking beverages, while the remaining 19% comes from the fluid found in food. Soups, fruits, and vegetables are the top sources of fluid in food.
Keep in mind that all drinks count toward keeping you hydrated, except alcohol. If you want to stay better hydrated during the day without taking frequent trips to the bathroom, reach for a refreshing glass of milk instead of water, a sports drink, or other beverage. Research shows milk keeps you better hydrated for a longer period of time compared to many other drinks including 100% juice, water, typical sports drinks, coffee, and tea. Plus, milk packs 13 essential nutrients including high-quality protein and bone-building calcium and vitamin D as well as natural electrolytes and carbohydrates.
Don’t let dehydration hamper how you feel each day! With summer heating up, be sure to get the recommended amount of fluid needed by sedentary men and women and adjust your intake based on factors that may increase your fluid needs such as exercise and heat. To help you stay better hydrated and improve your nutrient intake, reach for a refreshing glass of milk or chocolate milk throughout the day and be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, is one of the country’s leading sports nutritionists and a nutrition communications specialist. Spano is currently the director of nutrition for a MLB team. She previously worked for the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers, and Blackzillians. Spano is the lead author of Nutrition for Sport, Exercise and Health. She has appeared on CNN as well as NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates, and authored hundreds of magazine articles and trade publication articles, written book chapters, and marketing materials. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @mariespano.