Anyone who has spent an afternoon outside in the heat of a Virginia summer can attest to the importance of hydration.

Remaining hydrated (having enough water in your body to maintain crucial functions) is beneficial when trying to lose weight. It is also particularly important for athletes, regular exercisers and individuals who participate in summer outdoor activities where the body loses electrolytes through perspiration.

Electrolytes are electrically charged particles that help the body function normally. Some of the more familiar electrolytes include calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Calcium and magnesium help muscles contract and relax. Sodium and potassium help water stay in the right balance inside and outside of cells. Sodium is the electrolyte lost in the highest concentration in sweat.

A few of the symptoms of dehydration are headaches, hunger pangs, and/or fatigue. Dehydration sometimes is mistaken for hunger, so make sure you drink 8 oz of water, and wait 10 minutes before consuming additional calories. Often the symptoms will subside, which indicates you just needed to hydrate yourself. However, if after 10 minutes the hunger pangs are still there, enjoy a healthy snack.

Many of us overuse sports drinks, flavored beverages and sodas that contain a lot of wasted sugar and calories. In fact, some of the most popular sports drinks have as much sugar as a regular soda! (Did you know that 11% of the total calories consumed in the United States come from soda beverages? This alarming statistic helps us understand how these empty calories have a direct impact on our obesity epidemic.)

As a general rule, sports drinks become beneficial only after 90 minutes of high-intensity exercise. Up to that point, water is the perfect hydration choice. Some people tell me they don’t like water. If this is the case, dilute your sports drink with water and create a 50/50 mix. You will still get the flavor you like, with half the calories and sugar.

Doctors recommend adults consume eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids per day. Active adults should add two or three additional eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids per hour of exercise. These fluids should be water or come from water-rich whole foods, which are the best choices for keeping the body hydrated and maintaining electrolyte balance.

Whole foods include the replenishing electrolytes magnesium, potassium and calcium. Examples are: green leafy vegetables, whole grains and lentils (magnesium); bananas, raisins and potatoes (potassium); and yogurt and milk (calcium).

Challenge yourself to stay active AND properly hydrated this summer with the right choices for your personal level of activity.


Kim's Corner

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