In the throes of summer with soaring temperatures and humidity, the urge to quench our thirst is strong. But you can’t trust thirst alone. Experts tell us that by the time you actually feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Just how much fluid do you require for optimal health? Let’s quench our need to know with some basic facts then look at why a cool glass of iced tea can be one of your best go-to thirst-quenchers.
About 60 percent of your body weight is water. Most of your body’s daily processes depend on water. Just as you water your plants on a regular basis, you need to hydrate your body. Fluids help you to:
● Maintain body temperature
● Provide a moist environment for your nasal passages, ears, and throat
● Keep your joints well lubricated and cushioned
● Protect certain tissues in your body, including your spinal cord
● Remove waste effectively through urine, sweat, and even bowel movements
In 2004, the Food and Nutrition Board released an updated guideline for basic hydration needs. It recommended that women drink approximately 2.7 liters of water daily (that’s about 90 ounces) and men consume about 3 liters of water daily (about 125 ounces). You typically hear a recommendation of “eight 8-ounce cups of water daily,” which is actually a bit lower than these guidelines recommend, but many people make up the difference with specific food choices. And “eight cups a day” is easy to remember and track.
Basic hydration guidelines can help you to replace what your body loses through normal everyday functions, including minimal sweat, going to the bathroom and even the exhale phase of breathing, which involves small amounts of fluid expenditure.
When to Drink More
Your fluid needs increase when:
● You’re exposed to hot climates
● You’re exercising or more physically active
● You run a fever
● You have a gastrointestinal malady that causes you to vomit or have diarrhea
Women who breastfeed also have increased fluid needs.
If you do become dehydrated, it can quickly progress to heat exhaustion and on to heat stroke, which is a serious medical emergency. The bottom line is to continually rehydrate and drink beyond your thirst demands.
Looking for Variety? Try Tea
It’s better to meet your hydration needs from fluids like water and not from sugary drinks like soda. Alcohol can interfere with muscle recovery and it’s also a diuretic, so it’s certainly not a good choice for a hydration fluid. But a lot of people prefer a beverage with flavor, and that’s where unsweetened teas can fit the bill. You’ll get plenty of taste and variety with so many tea types and flavors.
Exercisers, Listen Up
If you exercise daily and sweat a bit, an extra 400 to 600 milliliters (about 1.5 to 2.5 cups of liquid) should be enough to replace any fluids lost. Hot, humid weather can cause additional loss of fluids, so take that into account and replenish accordingly. Hiking in higher altitudes may also require additional fluids for increased breathing rates and increased urine output.
The American Council on Exercise offers the following guidelines for exercise enthusiasts:
1. Drink about 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before exercise.
2. Drink another 8 ounces of water close to your workout, or during your warm up.
3. Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 minutes during your workout.
4. Drink about 8 ounces of water once you finish exercising.
5. Weigh yourself after your workout and drink about 16 to 24 ounces of fluid per pound of weight lost.
6. If you did perspire excessively, consider replenishing post-exercise with an electrolyte-containing beverage, preferably without sweeteners.
Tea Does a Body Good
In the summer months, drinking tea as a primary fluid replacement is almost a no-brainer. You can choose from green tea, decaffeinated tea, flower teas, root teas, leaf teas, berry teas, and more.
Sure, you can buy readymade unsweetened teas at the supermarket, but making your own tea means that you control the ingredients. Brewing sun tea is a great way to prepare a large amount of tea. I prefer to use spring water for my tea since it offers zero taste interference (mineral waters can influence the taste). I use boiling (212 degrees F) water to brew black, herbal, or dark oolong teas, and slightly cooler water (170-180 degrees F) to brew green and white teas. Allow darker teas to steep for about five minutes, and lighter teas to steep for about two to three minutes.
Here are a few more tips for brewing cold tea:
● Freeze brewed iced tea in ice cube trays then add to room-temperature tea. You can also mix two different flavors this way.
● Iced tea pops can be a sophisticated summer treat for kids and adults. You can find plastic pop containers at supermarkets and home stores. Consider adding small berries to the liquid before freezing. The pops will look pretty and have a boost of fruit flavor.
● Brew tea and let it cool. Then, pour it into a pitcher that contains an infuser. You can fill the infuser with citrus (lemon, lime orange slices) and allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator overnight. The fruits will gently infuse flavor into your tea.
● When brewing tea, use a an extra teabag or two, or a few spoonfuls of loose tea, if you are going to add water ice cubes when you serve, since the ice will melt and dilute the tea.
● Always add a bit of lemon juice or fresh squeezed lemon to help preserve the flavonoids.
Known as The HealthGal (www.healthgal.com), contributing health expert and blogger, Amy Hendel, is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, lifestyle expert, columnist, and spokesperson. Trained as a physician assistant and nutritionist, she maintains a private practice as a health coach. Her first book, Fat Families Thin Families (BenBella Publishers, 2008), offers a team approach to helping families cope with obesity and related health issues. The newest edition, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, is available at bookstores and online.
Amy is a featured host of Healthination’s What’s for Lunch?, Food Rescue, and Simple Smoothies. She’s been a guest on Today, Good Morning America, Fox News, The Early Show, Rachel Ray, The 700 Club, Extra, and national and local news and talk shows. Past producer and host of healthy home segments on HouseSmarts, Amy has also hosted Westwood One’s Good Eating Good Living, Lifetime’s Stories on the Beach, and the PBS medical talk shows HealthZone and Doctors on Call.