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NEWS | May 24, 2011

Maintain proper fluid intake

By Greer Gowen, Health and Wellness dietitian

How much water are you really supposed to drink? We all know that thirst controls water intake, but don't wait until your mouth feels dry before reaching for something to drink. To maintain good hydration, drink small amounts of fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration instead of treating it.

Dehydration can bring on symptoms of fatigue, headache and lethargy along with muscle cramping. The body undergoes increased stress during dehydration, which can lead to increased body temperature, increased heart rate and lack of concentration.

To guard against dehydration, a general guidance for fluid intake is one half to one ounce of fluid per pound of body weight. For example, an individual weighing 125 pounds needs 63 to 125 ounces of fluid per day.

An easy way to assess hydration status is by checking the color and quantity of your urine. If urine is very dark with low output, it is concentrated with metabolic wastes and is a sign the body needs more fluids. When urine is pale yellow, the body has returned to its normal water balance. Urine may also be dark if you are taking vitamin supplements. In that case, urine volume is a better indicator than color.

With so many choices of hydration these days, the best one depends on your activity levels and personal goals. There are bottled spring waters that are flavored and vitamin-fortified. Energy drinks and vitamin waters are also acceptable in moderation, but the energy consumed comes from calories rich in sugar which can result in weight gain and a lighter wallet.

One hundred percent juice can also provide quick energy to fuel muscles prior to a workout. However, from a weight management perspective, eating the whole fruit provides less calories and more fiber than drinking the juice.

When choosing sport drinks, consider flavor, carbohydrate and sodium amounts. Choosing drinks with 13 to 18 grams of carbohydrates per eight ounces will help provide adequate energy to maintain the body during a workout. For longer, more intense exercise sessions, include carbohydrates from a variety of sources such as dried fruits, whole grain bread, and gummy bears.

It isn't hard to stay hydrated. Take baby steps and gradually increase fluid intake. Take a water break at least once an hour and try to drink four to eight ounces of water. If plain water doesn't satisfy, add some flavor such as Crystal Lite or drink low-calorie flavored waters.

Foods also count as part of fluid intake. Strive for two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables per day. A sport drink or water paired with a salty snack such as pretzels or nuts is appropriate for endurance activities or any exercise done in extreme heat and humidity. People who exercise three to four times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a moderate pace can maintain good hydration if they drink adequate amounts of water and eat foods with high-water content, such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt, oatmeal and soups.

With the ever increasing temperature and humidity during the summer, play it smart and drink up!