Summer is here (woohoo!), meaning summer temps...and summer sweat (oh, right). Whether you’re catching rays at the beach, tending to your garden, or pounding the pavement, your hydration needs are most likely changing with the season, so your game plan should, too. Here’s what you need to know about staying hydrated this summer...and how to enjoy it.
Do I really need to pay more attention to my water intake in summer?
Water intake is important year-round, but anytime you’re sweating more than you normally would, the answer is yes, you do. And during the summer months, high temps mean there’s a good chance you are sweating more than you usually do.
It’s important to pay attention to your own body’s signals; thirst is a more accurate indicator of hydration needs in a healthy adult than any “glasses per day” graphic you see in a fitness mag. Another hydration indicator is the color of your urine. You’re aiming for light yellow--like the color of lemonade. Everyone will be different, and these are the ways our bodies communicate our individual needs.
Another caveat in hydration worth noting: when you sweat, you’re losing more than water. Sweat contains sodium, amino acids, lactate, and even fats. (We didn't know that, either!) If you’re exercising for more than 50-60 minutes or have been outside for long periods of time on a hot day, you’ll need to keep this in mind. Outside of these scenarios, drinking straight water is entirely fine.
Got it. So is it possible to consume water from other sources besides, you know...drinking water?
We hear your question. This is a safe space. It's OK not to love drinking water!
Even if you’re not lugging around a glass water bottle all day (we know, we know—it’s a commitment), so long as you’re eating, your body is likely getting *some* hydration. In fact, 20% of your hydration comes from food!
Fruits and veggies are notoriously hydrating—watermelon, strawberries, cucumber, lettuce, and peaches are some favorites around here—but other foods, like starches cooked in water and even meat, are also contributing to that 20%. Food also provides other good stuff, like sodium and potassium, which help our bodies hold onto the water it needs.
Smoothies are a great way to stay hydrated, especially if drinking water is low on your favorite things list. Water, milk, or plant milk all make for hydrating bases for smoothies. And the ice counts, too! Plus, fruits are hydrating and can help balance electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals lost in exertion. The verdict is in: smoothies are a totally delicious weapon against dehydration.
So do I *really* need that electrolyte or sports drink?
If you’re looking to hydrate yourself quickly, a combination of water, sodium, and carbohydrates is best—that's the typical combo you’d find in most sports drinks, but also easily achieved by drinking some water and eating food. “Drinks containing some carbohydrate in the form of sugars and electrolytes, usually sodium, can be absorbed by the body more quickly than pure water and therefore allow rehydration to happen more rapidly,” Bridget Benelam, a public health researcher with the British Nutrition Foundation told Time. (Shameless plug: superfood smoothies are a great way to combine food and water.)
Where do coffee and tea land in all of this?
As for coffee and tea, good news: most experts agree that they do count towards your body’s hydration needs. As for alcohol, it’s unfortunately not helping in the hydration department. Try drinking a glass of water in between cocktails to keep hydrated.
Even after you’ve eaten hydrating foods, blended up a hydrating smoothie, and enjoyed your morning java, you might still have a bit of a way to go on the hydration front. To mix things up, try flavored seltzers, mineral water, or creating your own fruit-infused concoctions.
Let’s hear a little more about that other stuff in sweat.
To reiterate: water alone is perfectly fine for replenishing fluids in a healthy sweating adult. But when your day involves some serious exertion (more than 50-60 minutes of intense exercise), really high temps (have you ever attempted a walking tour of Washington DC in August? Just us?) or illness, it might be time to consider the bigger picture.
Water’s nutrition facts (which read nothing, btw) don’t give a glimpse into how important it is to every single system in our bodies. But our bodies also need electrolytes, which are essential minerals, like potassium, sodium, and calcium, in order to keep our cells happy and functioning properly. Here are some tips to keep your electrolytes in balance:
You don’t have to reach for that sports drink. Chugging a sports drink can be oddly satisfying, but rest assured replenishing your electrolytes doesn’t have to involve the added sugars and food dyes found in most varieties. There are plenty of options with much less complicated ingredient lists. Read on.
Make your own mineral water. Salts are electrolytes, and in water, salt dissolves into mineral ions. Combine a pinch of Himalayan or Celtic salt into your glass of water and voila: mineral water that will help balance your electrolytes. (Warning: It may also make you feel like you’re enjoying a late lunch on a veranda in Tuscany.)
Know your potassium sources. While coconut water isn’t necessarily more hydrating than regular water, it does contain potassium, sodium, and sugar which will help your body hydrate quickly. Bananas and yogurt are also great sources of potassium and make for a creamy and nutrient-dense addition to a smoothie.
Appreciate the hydrating power of milk. Fun fact: skim milk is actually extremely hydrating! And most plant milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals that will help your body hydrate faster, too. Making you own nut milk? Add a sprinkle of salt. Your taste buds and your insides will thank you.
Looking for more inspiration on smoothie bases? Check out our full rundown here.