Keeping hydrated in the heat

I’m a big believer in maintaining adequate hydration, and one reason for this is that I and countless others have noticed just how this relatively simple strategy can help enliven our physical and mental energies. How much do we need to drink to maintain adequate levels of hydration? Well, opinions are divided on this. Some say 8 glasses a day. Some say that’s rubbish. I say there is no hard and fast rule.

Why? Well, our need for water can be quite individual. Some people are bigger than others. Some sweat more too. So, between individuals, there can be considerable variation in what represents and optimal fluid intake.

But not only that, individual requirements can vary a lot within an individual depending on a variety of factors including levels of activity, humidity and, of course, temperature. A litre and a half of water each day might be fine to maintain hydration levels if the temperature is 15 centigrade (about 60 Fahrenheit). However, when the ambient temperature is, say, 30 C (about 85 F), fluid requirements are likely to be much higher.

I am currently in a part of southern Europe where the temperature during the day is hovering around the mid-30s centigrade. Yesterday, I drank what even by my own standards was a lot of water, but after my morning wee, then next time I went to the toilet was about 1.30 pm. That itself was not a good sign. And I also found that the urine I produced was quite dark and, excuse me, pungent. Producing concentrated urine of this nature is a pretty sure sign that the body is low on fluid.

Now, I reckon throughout the morning alone I downed about 2.0-2.5 litres of water. However, it was clear from even a cursory glance at my urine after lunch that the 2.0-2.5 litres had not been enough. And it reminded me of just how important it is to gauge one’s need for fluid not on some generic recommendation based on volume, but on the basis of this an individual indicator of hydration such as urine colour.

My recommendation is to ensure that enough fluid is consumed to keep the urine pale yellow throughout the day. Be prepared on hot days for this to be quite a lot more that you’re perhaps used to drinking (as I discovered yesterday).

As far as what to drink goes, my preference is to make the core fluid water. Herb and fruit teas are good too, and perhaps even a bit of regular tea and coffee if you like these (though the caffeine that these may contain is a ‘diuretic’ and counter a bit the water you’re drinking).

I’m not a fan at all of soft drinks. Some, however, find water a bit dull. My suggestion is to put a little squeeze of lemon and/or lime in some cold, sparkling water. A few crushed mint leaves are an idea too.

One other thing I’ve found in practice is that the more thirsty someone gets, the less inclined they are to be satisfied by plain water. Once someone has a thirst that really needs slating, soft drinks and beer seem to become so much more appealing. Much more appealing than, for instance, there is not particular thirst. So, the irony is, that many find that drinking plenty of water makes it easier to be satisfied with just plain water.

9 Responses to Keeping hydrated in the heat

  1. Sagehill Jenny 11 August 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    When plain water seems unappealing, especially with heavy perspiration in summer heat, it means that I’m low on electrolytes/minerals… a situation where beer or soda pop are more satisfying.

    I’ve found that adding a pinch of quality sea salt to the water makes a huge difference in increasing plain water palatabilty, especially during those hot days.

  2. Sharon Heydon 13 August 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Coconut Water/Juice is a great rehydrating drink other than water!

  3. Denis Dillon 13 August 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    In England, I’ve found that going to a pub late in the evening on a warm/hot summer day, having sunned myself for hours in the hot sun,

    I’ve absorbed lots of vitamin D3 & I’m dehydrared. I drink enough English ale (cool not cold)so that my wee is clear & go home (taxi or bus if it’s too far to walk). I think I’ve rehydrated myself & feel good. Life can be so simple sometimes… ho hum.

  4. Radiant Lux 13 August 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    I just don’t buy into that 8 glasses of water a day stuff. Drink to thirst.

  5. Brian Abbott 13 August 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    I don’t know why, but however hot it gets and however hard I work in the heat I never feel extremely thirsty. Indeed, if the temperature is around 60 fahrenheit or less I never feel thirsty at all, even when I am working hard. I rarely drink water. However I do drink about 5-6 mugs of tea a day, So tea and seems to work for me. That and more salt than the experts advise

  6. Gordon Pearson 14 August 2010 at 1:11 am #

    Nature had provided us with a very reliable faculty for telling us when we are in need of water. It’s called thirst. Trouble is we too often don’t listen to what our body is telling us. We’re too busy, we’re distracted, we suck a sweet, buy an ice cream, and so fob the body off. My suggestion is: learn to give your body what it so richly deserves as your precious servant.And with water it pays to err on the generous side.

  7. Steve Tindall 17 August 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    Frequency of drinking not the quantity is the key. A two litre bottle of water is daunting but a small wine glass of water every hour seems easily achievable. In practice, once this habit is established the body automatically adjusts the timing and amount to what it needs.

  8. Patricia Edwards 6 September 2010 at 11:21 am #

    To up my water consumption, I now add peppermint to each glass. It’s so much easier to swallow and good for digestion as well

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  1. Drinking water appears to help weight loss. How? | Dr Briffa's Blog - 26 August 2010

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