Lounging by the pool is one of the best ways to beat the summer heat, but it’s also important to stay hydrated. But how much should you drink when the mercury rises? Can food be included in your fluid intake? And how do you know if you’re getting enough water to meet your body’s needs? In this article, you’ll find out everything you need to know about staying hydrated in summer, like recognising the signs of dehydration and how to keep your water levels up – both inside and out!
Water is essential for our health and makes up about 50–80 per cent of our body weight. It helps to regulate our body temperature, eliminate waste, produce saliva, lubricate our joints, absorb nutrients, boost our metabolism, keep our skin hydrated and more. Pretty awesome for two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen!
However, we lose about 2.5–3 kilos of water each day, usually as a result of breathing, sweating and urinating. And that increases by about 40 per cent in summer due to high temperatures, physical activity and prolonged sun exposure. That means we should be drinking more in summer to replenish fluid loss and avoid dehydration.
According to a recent study, about 80 per cent of Australians suffer from mild dehydration. What’s more, only a third of those surveyed were able to recognise symptoms of dehydration. So how do we know if our body needs an injection of H2O? Depending on whether your condition is mild, moderate or severe, common symptoms can include:
Note: Some of these symptoms may indicate other underlying health issues, so if you’re not sure, consult a health professional.
This depends on your age, gender, physical size, activity level and climate. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, men need about 10 cups of fluid a day, while women need about 8 cups. This amount increases if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, working outside, exercising regularly or living in a hot climate. Keep in mind that your daily quota doesn’t need to come from fluids alone. About a fifth can be absorbed from food, such as fruit and vegetables.
If you’ve got symptoms of dehydration, it usually means that your fluid input and output around out of synch, so it’s important to start hydrating straight away. In general, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for your body to rehydrate again. On the other hand, if your dehydration was severe (or due to fever or diarrhea), you may need an electrolyte solution to get your fluid and electrolyte levels back where they should be.
Note: People with certain health conditions may have different fluid needs. Please check with a medical practitioner before making changes to your diet or water intake.
Now that you know why hydration is important for your physical and mental wellbeing, here are seven easy ways to stay hydrated in summer:
Keeping track of your water intake isn’t always easy, particularly if you’re busy with family, friends or work. That’s why you need a water intake tracker. This app tracks and monitors your water consumption based on your age, weight, exercise habits and personal goals, and provides regular reminders and progress reports. You can even find apps that gamify the process to make it fun – like seeing a plant grow as you drink more water!
Sweating is our body’s way of regulating our body temperature and keeping us cool. But fluid loss also means salt loss. This is crucial for regulating our blood pressure, digestion and, most importantly, fluid balance. To help replenish natural salt levels, consider adding a pinch of Himalayan sea salt to your water bottle. Himalayan sea salt (not table salt) is preferred as it contains 84 active minerals, including calcium, magnesium and potassium – three minerals that often get depleted when we sweat. However, if you already consume a lot of salt or you have high blood pressure, keep salt consumption to a minimum.
Let’s face it, drinking water all day can get boring, so top up your fluid intake with water-rich fruit or vegetables. This shouldn’t be difficult in summer – supermarkets are stacked high with colourful summer fruits and vegetables. Not only do they make a sweet alternative to water, but they’re also rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, making them a filling and nutritious snack. Below is a table of some water-rich fruit and vegetables you can add to your diet.
Another way of enjoying water-rich fruit and vegetables is by turning them into smoothies or juices. Make sure you’ve got a powerful blender or juicer – and include the pulp for extra fibre. Keep the smoothie or juice in an insulated thermos so you can sip on it throughout the day. If there’s any leftover in the blender, pour it into an ice block mould so you (or your kids) can enjoy it later as an icy treat.
On the other hand, if you want a drink that quenches your thirst after a strenuous workout, you can’t go past coconut water. Not only does it contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium (which are lost when we sweat), but research shows it’s just as effective as a sports drink when you’re rehydrating after a workout.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it removes vital fluids and electrolytes from your body. When you combine this with high temperatures or outdoor activity, your fluid levels can drop dramatically, leading to mild or moderate dehydration.
While it’s fun to indulge in a few beers or cocktails in the warmer months, try to reduce your alcohol intake, and make sure you eat some food at the same time to replenish lost nutrients. Or better yet, have alcohol-free days when you drink mocktails or iced teas. However, avoid shop-bought varieties as they can be full of sugar and empty calories.
Hydrating from the inside is a great way to keep your skin and hair moisturised in summer, but if you’re planning to go swimming, sailing or hiking, you’ll need to hydrate on the outside as well. Before hitting the beach or hiking trails, apply a hydrating skin lotion with high SPF to protect your skin, and don’t forget a leave-in hair conditioner to minimise damage and moisture loss.
If you’re an avid swimmer and you’re experiencing dry hair and scalp from chlorinated water, use a swimming cap or condition your hair before and after the swim (for more on treating chlorine-damaged hair, see this article). Alternatively, switch to a mineral pool system. Not only does it keep your splash zone free of bacteria, but the minerals are also good for your hair, leaving it soft, smooth and conditioned. No showering or shampooing required!
Manually dosed chlorine pools aren’t always the best choice for your skin. According to one study, one session is enough to change your skin barrier function and increase the risk of irritation. What’s more, if you suffer from eczema or a similar skin condition, they can reduce your skin’s water-holding capacity and make your condition worse.
A mineral pool, however, uses naturally sourced minerals like magnesium and potassium to keep your pool sanitised. In addition to reducing chloramines (chlorine by-products) and chemical use, they also moisturise and soothe your skin. In fact, one study showed that bathing in magnesium-rich water can improve skin barrier function and hydration, while another revealed it could reduce the severity of eczema and minimise the use of cortisone creams. To find out more about the many benefits of a MagnaPool mineral system, see this article.
As you can see, staying hydrated in summer doesn’t have to be a chore – and you can meet your daily hydration quota with food as well as fluids. As long as you know how much water you need and have a system for keeping track of your intake, you’ll be giving your body the boost it needs, both in summer and beyond. Here’s a summary of our summer hydration tips: