I’m not sure when the dog days of summer officially start and end, but it sure feels like we’re smack in the middle of it…it’s hot, it’s humid, the sun beats down both beautifully and rather unrelentingly. As a result, it’s all-too-easy to become dehydrated in such weather—and even more so during periods of exertion or exercise.
Just the other day, I took a run and found myself having to stop and walk at a point I almost never do, and I think my inadequate drinking during the hours beforehand and the lack of water fountains along my route was the prime culprit.
To brush up on my hydration how-to, and other basics, I did some noodling around the ‘Net, and here’s the low-down on liquids:
1. Guess what the proper color of your urine should be? Not crystal clear, and most certainly not that Gatorade yellow. Straw yellow is how most experts describe the output of someone who’s well-hydrated. (I’ll spare you the image…but this colorful chart is actually really helpful.) While certain medications and foods can affect the color of your urine, light lemonade is the ideal shade. (Sorry, I couldn’t help the silly rhyme!)
2. Again, totally colorless urine isn’t your goal—that can actually be taking it too far. Over-diluting your blood with excessive water intake can lead to electrolyte imbalances and potentially even something called hyponatremia. You may have heard of this a bit in the past few years—marathoners or other serious exercisers over-hydrating and falling victim—and while it’s obviously very serious, you really do have to consume a LOT of water to be in the danger zone. No one needs to chug liter after liter after liter of water over relatively short periods of time.
3. During these summer months, it’s smart to always tote along a refillable bottle that holds at least 12 ounces during a workout (more if you’re going to be doing a long hike, run or other endeavor). Stop frequently to take small sips even if you aren’t feeling really thirsty. (By the time you get that parched feeling, you may already be a bit ‘behind’ on intake.) During a day at the pool, beach or other hours-long, sun-filled affair, try not to let all the fun and action distract you from slaking your thirst. (This can be particularly hard to remember if you’re in and out of a chilly pool—just because you don’t see or feel sweat on your brow doesn’t mean it’s not escaping your body!)
Special note for anyone heading to a boozy BBQ: Drinking alcohol can actually muddle things up, since your body tries to remove alcohol through urination—and this can have a ripple effect if you’re not drinking enough non-alcoholic liquids, too. (I LOVE this super-refreshing recipe, pictured above, for punching up a pitcher of seltzer or water.)
4. How to know if you’re already dehydrated? First signs include: dry mouth, muscle cramps, light-headedness (especially when standing up), nausea and vomiting.