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To Your Health: Water is Key Ingredient in Battle to Beat the Heat

by on September 06, 2014 10:00 AM

It's no secret – when I hit the pavement for a run before work or on the weekend, I sweat.

All of us sweat when we exercise; it's how our bodies keep us cool.

But, even when we're not biking 20 miles or sprinting laps at the high school track, we still need fluids to keep us hydrated and beat the heat. When it's hot and humid, as we frequently see during summers in Pennsylvania, water and fluids should always be by our side.

As long as you make the right choices, the fluids you consume are second only to oxygen in keeping you alive and well. But determining what beverages are best and how much you need to drink can be confusing. Plain water is certainly preferable. Water comprises almost 70 percent of our weight and is critical to functions such as carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, flushing away waste, and regulating body temperature.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that adult women consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of fluids and men consume 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of fluids each day. That means that most of us should be taking in between nine to 13 eight-ounce glasses of water per day — more if it's hot outside and you are active.

Although the foods we eat do account for a portion of the fluids we consume, most of the fluids we consume come from drinking water and other beverages. If you are thinking that nine to 13 glasses per day seems like a tall order, here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help you reach your goal:

  • Take a drink every time you walk past a water fountain.
  • Keep a glass or bottle of water at your desk if you're a "subconscious" sipper.
  • If you're out in hot weather — especially if you are active — drink a few sips of water every 15 minutes, if possible.
  • Eat solid foods that have a lot of water in them like lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, grapefruit and yogurt.

Over the years, bottled water became popular, and now turns up in many refrigerators.

We've now moved even further along, as "enhanced" waters are found nearly everywhere -- for sale in the grocery store and even at gas station checkout lines. Available in a variety of fruit flavors, these flavored drops are often touted as being full of vitamins, electrolytes, and other enhancements.

But do all these "enhancements" really enhance the benefits of water? Health experts say it's important to use discretion when drinking water with anything added to it. Be sure to read labels carefully to evaluate the calories per serving in each container. There are often added calories from sugar or other ingredients.

While the increased consumption of soda tends to get most of the blame for packing on the pounds, the real culprit is the excessive amounts of sugar we consume in all forms of liquid. Whether it is soft drinks, fancy coffees, fruit drinks, lemonade, sweetened tea, and now vitamin waters, sweetened drinks have us battling the bulge. With 150 calories in a 12-ounce soda, a soda at lunch and another at dinner adds 300 calories that aren't offset by nutrients.

Drinking sports beverages can also add unwanted calories and is likely unnecessary unless you are taking part in vigorous activity for more than 60 minutes.

Plain water is generally the best choice, but if you find the taste of water is too bland, try infusing water with citrus or fruit, such as lemon, lime, watermelon or raspberries. Also be aware that in the "light" or no-calorie versions of the flavored water enhancers, you're likely to find unnatural chemical sweeteners like aspartame, which can spark a whole different debate.

On the whole, water is going to be your best bet. Whether you're working out or just enjoying the warmer days, your body needs and craves water.

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Sue Trainor has worked in the healthcare field for 23 years, and is currently a certified registered nurse practitioner and certified diabetic educator in the endocrinology department at Mount Nittany Physician Group. She holds a bachelor's degree from Wells College and a master's degree in nursing from Bloomsburg University. Along with her husband and two teenage children, Sue lives in Pennsylvania Furnace where she enjoys running, gardening, and knitting.
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