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Wellness Matters: Quench Your Thirst, But Don’t Go Overboard

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

Rising temperatures and more outdoor activity mean it’s time to increase your fluid intake. The body needs more hydration in warm weather, especially during exercise. But how much is enough? When is the best time to drink? And which is better, water or sports drinks?

Water is critical; you can’t function without it. It protects and hydrates your organs, enhances digestion, transports nutrients to cells, and keeps you energized and mentally sharp. It also balances electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to keep muscles functioning properly. Approximately 45 to 50 percent of daily water intake comes from drinking fluids, 35 percent from eating food and the rest from metabolism.

How Much is Enough?

If you don’t drink enough water you risk dehydration. But you might not need as much as you think. The old edict of eight glasses a day is passé because everyone’s water requirements vary. Proper hydration depends on many factors, including your activity level, how hard you are exercising, weather conditions, etc.

Staying properly hydrated is especially important when you exercise. It helps fight fatigue and prolong endurance. Even mild dehydration can affect your performance and make you more injury prone. The risk rises when the temperature rises, because you sweat more and lose fluids more quickly.

Hydration is key, but don’t overdo it! Drinking large amounts of water can cause a condition called hyponatremia, in which sodium levels in the blood drop and lead to confusion, muscle cramps, weakness and risk of death. Sports beverages are helpful in replenishing electrolytes and carbohydrates. They are especially important in prolonged activity and endurance sports.

When Should You Drink?

Thirst is a signal that your body would like more fluid. Even if you don’t feel totally parched, mild thirst is still a sign of impending dehydration. Other signs include dry mouth, fatigue, headache, dark yellow urine and dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially while exercising, take a water break! Schedule an appointment to see Elizabeth Gannon, DO with the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group: 703.532.5436

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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