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Quench Your Body's Thirst

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"During one hour of activity we can lose up to two litres of wate.

Most of us want something to drink when we’re thirsty, right? But it may surprise you to know that if you get thirsty, you’ve already gone too long without something to drink. Thirst is the body’s way of telling you that it is already dehydrated and that you need to replenish lost fluids.

Proper hydration is absolutely essential for a healthy lifestyle. Consider, for instance, that we can go more than 40 days without something to eat but only four to five days without fluids.

If you’re planning to participate in any activity, you’ll need to stay hydrated to ensure optimal performance and to avoid possible consequences such as nausea, muscle cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, heat exhaustion and other more serious health problems. This is especially true in hotter temperatures. In the heat, or with an increase in the intensity of an activity, we lose far greater amounts of fluids through sweating. Yet many of us don’t drink enough fluids to properly hydrate ourselves for those summer activities that we enjoy.

Water is the most important source of hydration to meet the body’s needs. It accounts for about 60 per cent of our body weight and performs many vital services. Water functions in every cell of the body. It lubricates joints, removes waste from the digestive tracts, removes toxins from the system, protects the body’s organs, aids in digestion and helps to cool the body through sweating.

Sweat It Out

Sweat is the body’s natural coolant system, reducing the body’s temperature as a result of evaporation from the surface of the skin. Sweating is brought on through increased intensity of an activity or through an increase in temperature. As a result of sweating, we lose significant amounts of water. During one hour of activity we can lose about two litres of water. In hotter temperatures, we can lose up to 2.8 litres.

It cannot be stressed enough just how essential it is to replace these lost fluids. Research indicates that water replaced as fast as it is lost will help maintain stable body temperatures, but water taken simply to quench the thirst will cause an increase in body temperature. Complete avoidance of water will result in a steady rise in body temperature and may lead to significant health problems. For an athlete, performance will be negatively impacted as a result of inadequate hydration.

In addition to water loss, sweating also causes a depletion of the body’s electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium and chloride, which are required for the normal functions of tissues, enzymes and hormones. However, a depletion of electrolytes usually only occurs as a result of a sustained prolonged activity.

How to Hydrate

Proper hydration takes some time and planning. Eight to 10 glasses of water a day is recommended, but there are other ways to attain the hydration that we need. Fruits and vegetables are a very good source of water. Cantaloupe and melons contain more than 90 percent water, as do leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Kiwis, another great source of water, contain essential electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium.

Anyone who has snickered at people who carry around water bottles wherever they go–think again! Purified water is still the best means of hydrating, so consume it whenever possible. We cannot hydrate ourselves properly in one sitting. Although our bodies can lose more than two litres of water an hour, our systems only have the ability to absorb up to 3 cups of water an hour. Anything over this amount may cause discomfort, especially during physical activity.

The best way to hydrate is by drinking or eating the right foods throughout the day. This will allow your system to absorb the needed fluids and store them for future events. When planning for an activity, it’s ideal to drink two cups of water two hours ahead of time, followed by one to two cups 10 to 15 minutes before you start. During the activity, take one-third of a cup every 15 to 20 minutes, then one to two cups 10 to 15 minutes after you’ve finished.

For activities that last longer than two hours, you may need to drink some type of sports drink containing diluted glucose and electrolytes. Ensure that you do not drink a solution that exceeds 2.5 to 10 per cent glucose, as this may cause cramping, diarrhea or nausea. (Most sport drinks will fall within this category.) In addition, avoid drinking fluids that act as diuretics. Alcohol, soft drinks, tea and coffee actually reverse the hydration process and cause us to become more dehydrated. For every cup of coffee you drink, replenish your system with two cups of water.

Following these basic steps of hydration will not only reduce your risk of health problems but will also encourage a healthy body and help you increase performance. It is really quite simple but extremely important. So grab yourself a glass of water, toast to your health and drink up!

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