While it is important to stay hydrated year-round, it can be more of a challenge during the steamy summer months. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat by balancing fluid intake with what is lost through the course of the daily living.

While it is important to stay hydrated year-round, it can be more of a challenge during the steamy summer months. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat by balancing fluid intake with what is lost through the course of the daily living.

“Most people know we lose fluid through perspiration, but we also lose it through breathing, going to the bathroom and other bodily functions,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

“However, our bodies need fluid in order to perform many important functions, so the goal is to balance the amount of fluid we’re taking in against what we’re losing.”

Because fluid needs vary depending on diet, physical activity, outside temperature and humidity, it is hard to pin down an exact recommendation on how much fluid a person should try to consume each day.

However, a common recommendation is to drink 6 to 8 cups of fluid each day in addition to what comes from solid foods. But, the fluid of choice does not always have to be water.

“Drinking plain water is great, but milk and 100 percent fruit juices will work,” Hermann said. “Soups, as well as ‘watery’ fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, carrots and apples are solid sources of fluid as well.”

Tea, coffee, soda and other caffeinated beverages can count toward meeting daily fluid intake needs, but the amount of caffeine should be limited to 300 milligrams or less per day.

An 8-ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee typically contains 85 mg, while an 8-ounce cup of tea or a 12-ounce serving of a soft drink contains 40 mg.

“One rule of thumb to follow is to pick fluids you like,” Hermann said. “If you don’t like water, maybe drink milk or 100 percent juice, but remember most beverages, other than water, have calories.”

Regardless of the fluid of choice, look for opportunities to get it in throughout the day. For instance, stash water in the car or keep your favorite beverage nearby while at your desk.

To stay hydrated during exercise, spread fluid intake throughout the workout by drinking before, during and after physical activity. If it is hot, humid or an extended exercise session, more fluid may be needed.

Although thirst is frequently the first sign of dehydration, other symptoms include dry mouth, headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, sluggishness, fainting and muscle cramps.

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