Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC
Boy, it’s been hot out there. The temperature these past few weeks have been sky high, which is enjoyable for some, and intolerable to others. Either way, when the weather heats up, cooling down becomes serious business!
Heat and humidity can zap energy and stamina if you allow yourself to become dehydrated, so drinking enough fluid – especially water – is paramount.
Water You Talking About?
Water is the key to hydration. That’s pretty obvious, but water does more than you might think. It helps your body:
- Maintain blood circulation
- Regulate body temperature
- Carry heat away from internal organs to the skin, triggering sweating
- Sweat, which cools you down to a safe body temperature
Once you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, so drink enough to avoid feeling thirsty. For some, that goes above the general recommendation for 8 glasses per day. Here’s what you need to know:
- Keep an eye on your pee. It should be pale yellow or colorless and clear, not cloudy. Dark yellow, orange, cloudy or smelly urine means you need to hit that water bottle. Note: If you’re taking b-vitamins, it might look florescent yellow, but that’s nothing to worry about.
- Be sure to begin exercise well-hydrated, especially in high heat or humidity
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, which contain both water and potassium, an important electrolyte
- Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, more so than coffee or tea, so rein in the booze during a heat wave
- Don’t wipe sweat away. It sounds gross, but allowing sweat to evaporate on the skin is the way your body cools itself down.
- Cold water (arm) plunge. For a fast cool-down, plunge your arms into cold water up to the elbow. Blood vessels are closer to the surface on your arms, allowing the cold water to cool you off faster.
- Place a cold, wet cloth on the back of your neck and/or forehead
- Plunge feet in cold water.
Sports Drinks & Electrolytes:
Sports drinks can be helpful for athletes working out in high temps, and electrolyte balance is important for anyone who’s sweating a lot in the heat. But many are filled with artificial dyes, flavors, sweeteners and other nasty ingredients we recommend you avoid. Good thing that home made sports drinks are easy and refreshing. Try these alternatives:
- Water with lemon and a pinch of sea salt
- Diluted coconut water or watermelon juice
- Make your own sports drink by mixing water, herbal tea or green tea with a pinch of sea salt, and an electrolyte formula, such as EXOS calcium-magnesium powder, SpectraMin mineral complex or Somaplex liquid minerals. You can sweeten it with a little bit of stevia, xylitol or honey.
Heatstroke: When to Get Help
Extreme heat and humidity can make it difficult for the body to cool itself. Vigorous physical activity in the sun makes it even worse, so be sure to stay hydrated and cool off throughout an extremely hot and humid day. Heatstroke is an extreme reaction to the heat and can be dangerous. Be on the lookout for symptoms such as:
- High body temperature
- Rapid heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
Infants, seniors and those who work outdoors are at greater risk for developing heatstroke, which requires immediate treatment. If you suspect you or someone else shows signs of heatstroke, be sure to call 911 immediately. In the meantime, drinking a combination of water, apple juice and a pinch of sea salt can be helpful while help is on the way.
The summer is many people’s favorite season. Stay hydrated, take cooling breaks from intense summer heat and humidity, and enjoy!