Staying Healthy & Hydrated in the Heat of the Summer
Written Amanda Williams, MPH
You’ve always been told to drink more fluids – in the summer when you’re sweating and by your doctor when you’re sick. But why is this so important to our health to stay hydrated?
What is waters purpose in our bodies?
Approximately 60% of our bodies are made up of water. Water plays an essential role in the following functions in the body:
- Regulates body temperature
- Carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells
- Lubricates joints
- Allows the liver and kidneys to remove waste
- Protects organs and tissues
- Moistens the tissues of eyes, mouth and nose
- Maintains mineral balance
Water is critical to our survival and any imbalances can impact our body severely. As our body temperature goes up (due to summer heat exposure) a reaction occurs in the body as a defense mechanism. We know this reaction as sweating. Sweating occurs when the body is trying to cool itself down. The problem with this excess fluid loss is it can affect our normal bodily functions. Take a classic case of “over heating” in hot temperatures and then look at the role water plays in maintaining mineral balance. We commonly refer to these minerals as our electrolytes. Excessive loss of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium or phosphorus can lead to muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue, dehydration, elevated internal temperature, and in severe cases even organ damage. Perhaps in these circumstances, rather than sweating loads you could hire a professional to install air conditioning in your home, this way you can cool down quicker and reduce the risks of affecting your normal bodily functions. Many people already have one of these systems in their homes though, and often at times they can break – so it would be a good idea to click here to learn about air conditioning repair. In either instance, just remember to stay well hydrated when the summer heat hits.
The American College of Sports Medicine has set a basic guideline to follow during extreme temperatures to avoid dehydration. “Drink at least 16-20 ounces of water one to two hours before any outdoor activity. After that, drink 6-12 ounces of water every 15 minutes that you are outside.” [i]
It is not that we simply need to follow these guidelines, we need to understand the importance of rebalancing our electrolytes after excessive fluid loss. The water restoration is just one part to enjoying the summer heat. The other component is maintaining proper acid/base balance in the body.
Replace and Restore Minerals
To achieve this, it is advisable to replace and restore your minerals. A wonderful way to do this is by taking in the right blend of minerals. First, consider the important role that both magnesium and potassium play in maintaining pH balance in the body.[ii] If the electrolytes become imbalanced, called dehydration, this can make us more acidic. We can offset this negative effect by adding in the alkaline minerals such as potassium and magnesium. As the temperature outside, as well as inside of our bodies goes up, the muscles release lactic acid and can make us feel weak, fatigued, and muscles can even cramp up or spasm. This is important to recognize because we have to fend this off as to not do damage to the body.
The body can also benefit from amino acid replacement. Take beta alanine for example; this amino acid plays a critical role in buffering acidity in the body.[iii] As we enjoy the warm breezes that come along with the summer season, we are often more physically active than normal. This increase in activity can generate extra lactic acid from the muscles and throw the body’s pH levels off, thus making us more acidic. To target this issue, beta alanine is a very good option.
Many of us wait in anticipation for temperatures to rise so we can enjoy the beach, park or the backyard picnics. This is the best time of year for many people, as they feel more active and partake in a healthier lifestyle during the summer and is usually when they consume more seasonal and local fresh fruits and vegetables. But we also can over exert ourselves in the heat! We need to make sure we can enjoy all of the good of the summer along with the bad. Now that you have the basics down of how to stay healthy and hydrated in the heat, you are ready to hit the beach or take that extra stroll around the neighborhood. Keep that water bottle handy and don’t forget the minerals and amino acids. Get yourself some powdered magnesium, potassium and beta alanine and add a small amount to your water to keep your body in balance.
Questions for Amanda about staying hydrated this summer? Leave us a comment below!
[ii] König D, Muser K, Dickhuth H-H, Berg A, Deibert P. Effect of a supplement rich in alkaline minerals on acid-base balance in humans. Nutrition Journal. 2009;8:23. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-8-23.
[iii] Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012;43(1):25-37. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z.