It’s summer in Miami. It’s the time for fun, sun—and lots of sweat.
As the heat peaks in the ‘305,’ there’s one question you need to ask yourself: Am I drinking enough water?
“Water is the most essential nutrient,” says Tania Rivera, a registered dietitian and assistant clinical professor at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. “You can go without food, but you cannot go without hydration.”
Water it is. Period.
“The majority of our body is water,” Rivera explains. “Some of the functions that water plays in our bodies has to do with regulating temperature and protecting our organs, oxygenating the cells and carrying nutrients to the cells. It also helps with our metabolism. It helps regulate our brain function and flushes out all the waste from our body. It also improves the oxygen in our blood.”
Consuming enough water is crucial for our overall health. When it comes to combating summer heat, we usually drink water when we’re thirsty. But that might not be enough, says Rivera.
“Your body has this natural way of maintaining your cells hydrated,” Rivera says. “We have to supplement them with fluids. In Miami, because we sweat so much more than people in colder climates, you’re also losing fluid through sweat. We need to compensate adequately for that.”
The bottom line: “By the time we’re thirsty, ‘dehydration’ has already set in,” Rivera says. Dehydration doesn’t just mean extreme cases. At its basic level, it means your intake of water is less than what you need.
“The best way to keep up with it is by getting ahead,” Rivera explains. “Drink water before you are thirsty.”
For those wondering how exactly to achieve that, Rivera shares some top tips:
1. Invest in a gigantic water bottle.
Rivera often recommends her clients get a large 64 oz. water bottle.
“Have it on your desk,” she says. “Look at it. You’ll be more responsive to that. It’s a cue to action.”
Take little sips here and there. Don't chug the water or attempt to drink it all at once. It can be harmful to drink large volumes of water all in one sitting. Pace yourself and try to take several sips throughout the day.
If you’re wondering if you really need to drink eight glasses of water per day, the simple answer is yes. Depending on your particular circumstances, you might need a little more.
“It varies by age, climate in which we live, as well as amount, duration and intensity of the exercise we do. A good starting point is eight, eight-ounce glasses per day.”
2. Listen to your body’s thirst mechanism.
What you really need to do is pay attention to your body. Observe when you get thirsty, how often you get thirsty and the amount of exercise or heat and humidity you experience.
It might sound a little gross, but Rivera says, one of the best ways to tell if you need to drink more water is by taking a look at your urine, especially in the morning. If the urine is concentrated, then you need to drink more water. If the urine is relatively light or clear in color, then you’re doing well. You don't need to pay excessive attention to your urine color, but it's a good marker to help you.
The point is, try to pay attention to yourself. Be mindful about your daily water-drinking routine and learn to anticipate when your body will need more water.
3. Mix in lemon or other natural flavors.
If you feel water is too bland or too boring, Rivera says, try to spice it up with natural flavors. Squeeze some lemon juice into your water or add a sprig of mint leaves.
You can also experiment with limes, oranges, or even crushed raspberries or sliced cucumbers. Be creative and try flavors and fruits that pique your interest.
“You make it part of your idea and your routine,” Rivera says. “We drink a lot of calories in this country. We need more water.”
4. Eat some fruits.
It’s not just about drinking more water – it’s also about eating more foods that contain good amounts of water.
Fruits are among the best food for the job. Rivera says you can eat water-rich fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, strawberries, pineapples, peaches and bell peppers. The list goes on. Do a quick search online to find a few fruits that tempt your taste buds.
You can also consume water in various vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and celery. And of course, lettuce is another great source of H20.
5. Watch out for caffeine and other beverages.
Rivera says there are several beverages she calls “hydration zappers.” These are beverages that inhibit the body’s ability to take in water. These are among some of the most popular beverages—coffee, soda and alcohol.
“They are natural diuretics, they dehydrate us,” Rivera says.
Reducing your intake of one or all three of these may seem like a tall order (especially if you're a morning coffee kind of person), but it’s worth the effort to give it a shot. It’ll help keep your body more hydrated.
If you do drink some of these beverages, make sure to adjust your water intake accordingly.
“For every cup of coffee, up your water intake too,” she says. “Look at hydration as a whole.”
“Water is the most essential nutrient. You can go without food, but you cannot go without hydration.”
- Tania Rivera, assistant clinical professor at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work