Temperatures are soaring, high temperature records are breaking, and the forecast is calling for many more weeks of hot weather before summer’s end. Active people who are used to enjoying outdoor activities aren’t content to stay indoors until the weather cools down, so how can we safely enjoy outdoor activities? Hydration is one important piece of that puzzle.
Drink fluids with electrolytes
“Any type of fluid is good, but the best is usually something with electrolytes, like Gatorade,” says Justin Heath, DO, a Family Medicine Doctor at Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, NV.
Dr. Heath also recommends Gatorade G2 and Propel Water for their lower sugar content. Plain water is also great for hydrating, but not all water is considered equal. Filtered water contains no electrolytes, those all-important conductors of electricity that are found in our bodies. Common electrolytes include sodium (salt), potassium, and calcium. Filters commonly used in city water systems remove salt and other electrolytes before the water comes out the tap. Most water purchased by the case in the grocery store is lacking as well.
“If it’s bottled water, it’s filtered water,” says Dr. Heath.
A combination of a sports drink and filtered water can help replenish electrolytes lost to sweat during an outdoor exercise or work session. Water from a spring or well is also a good option, as both are usually unfiltered.
Drink throughout the day
Attempting to ‘pre-hydrate’ by increasing your fluid intake before engaging in strenuous outdoor activity won’t provide any benefits.
“You need to drink throughout the day,” advises Dr. Heath. “Just take a drink every fifteen minutes.”
Remember to hydrate regularly, and don’t wait too long between trips to the water cooler.
“If you’re already thirsty, it’s too late,” says Dr. Heath. “You’re already dehydrated at that point.”
Clothing choice matters
Your clothing choice can also affect the rate at which your body loses electrolytes through sweating. Long sleeve shirts and pants create convection, or the process of losing heat by air and water molecules moving across the skin. In this case, the water molecules are sweat. The layer of clothing allows the body to reabsorb some of the sweat and its electrolytes. Tank tops and shorts allow more sweat molecules to evaporate.
Choose fabrics carefully
Select clothing made of natural fibers when getting dressed for the heat. Cotton and silk allow for optimal breathability, allowing hot air to leave your body and cool air to circulate through the fabric toward your skin. Synthetic fabrics like polyester or rayon trap the heat and won’t let you experience the cooling properties of natural fibers.
Always wear a hat
Pick a hat with a wide brim for maximum shade protection wherever you go, even if you’re hiking or doing yard work in a shade-less area. If nothing else, grab a baseball cap and keep the sun off your face. It flattens your hair, but sacrificing a hairstyle is a smart decision when temperatures are high. The shade provided by a hat will help your body stay hydrated by preventing excessive moisture loss through sweat.
This summer is hotter than some in recent memory, but if you dress appropriately and keep a water bottle close by, you’ll still be able to enjoy outdoor fun.