Don’t stay thirsty, my friends

An important part of maintaining good health on a day-to-day basis is hydration, but how much hydration is enough? And can you really overhydrate? A primary care sports medicine physician at Baylor College of Medicine breaks it down for us.

a golfer takes a drink from a water bottleHydration is key for our body to function properly, according to Dr. Irvin Sulapas, assistant professor of family and community medicine.

Hydration can impact our energy level, help maintain our body temperature and help our organs function properly.

“The general rule of thumb is to make sure you are on top of your thirst,” Sulapas said.

That means that if you’re thirsty, your body is telling you that you’re already dehydrated.

According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men should drink about 15.5 cups of fluid per day and women should drink about 11.5 cups of fluid per day.

Fortunately, a regular, healthy diet helps contribute to hydration. Having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables in addition to drinking water regularly can help you meet your daily hydration needs. Water-rich foods include lettuce, soups, yogurt, tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelon and most other fruits. Liquids also can help you stay hydrated, but Sulapas says to beware of dehydrating liquids, such as beverages with caffeine or alcohol.

Sparkling water or carbonated water, which are standard in other parts of the world, can also contribute to hydration and are a better alternative to soda.

Common signs that you’re not hydrating enough during the day include feeling thirsty, a dry feeling in your mouth, feeling tired, not urinating more than once a day or having a dark yellow urine color.

“It’s not uncommon for your urine to be a darker color first thing in the morning, but ideally urine should be clear to pale yellow,” Sulapas said.

Hydration during a workout also is key, but Sulapas said that this is where you should be careful about overhydrating.

It’s important to make sure you don’t go into a workout dehydrated, but overhydrating just before a workout can cause you to feel full and keep you from getting a good workout.

Sulapas encourages taking 30-second hydration breaks during workouts as these breaks can help keep the muscles from getting tight during a workout and can give you a natural boost of energy.

Overhydrating during an intense workout where your body is sweating out the salt and electrolytes can cause an electrolyte imbalance. Signs of overhydration include muscle cramping despite hydration and feeling lightheaded or nauseous.

In these cases, Sulapas recommends taking a break or scaling back on the hydration.

He said that overhydration in your day-to-day life is uncommon because the kidneys are very resilient organs.

In terms of sports drinks for hydration, Sulapas says they aren’t needed during light to moderate physical activity and that electrolytes from a healthy diet and water intake should be sufficient. However, sports drinks can be helpful during vigorous physical activity that’s done for a long period of time, such as playing basketball or football or training for long-distance running. Even in those cases, Sulapas recommends alternating between a sports drink and water, as drinking too many sports drinks can cause nausea.

Learn more about primary healthcare through Baylor’s Family and Community Medicine clinics or call 713-798-7700.

-By Dipali Pathak

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