If you only do one thing for your health this summer, do this...

Image: Alex Wong In the summer I like to focus on relevant health topics, like skin care, taking (real) time off, and healthy ice cream.

It occurred to me this year that I've missed the MOST important factor to staying health in the summer - probably because it's so simple.

The fact is, you can't be as active and energetic as summer demands without staying hydrated. With higher temperatures and stronger sunlight to contend with, hydration becomes even more crucial in the summer months.


Eight eight-ounce glasses? Not so much.

Water constitutes 2/3 of the human body, which is incredible! Clearly, staying hydrated is crucial to our well-being.

However, the old eight eight-oz glasses per day suggestion has kind of been debunked.

As it turns out, our bodies are pretty great at regulating our hydration level, and will trigger the experience of thirst any time we start to get dehydrated. To be clear, this doesn't mean we don't need to drink water - we absolutely do! It just means listening to our bodies and drinking consistently when we're thirsty throughout the day will keep us hydrated.

One caveat is that we need to think about what we're drinking. As long as we're heeding our thirst and drinking things that hydrate us (water, coconut water, etc.) as opposed to things that actively dehydrate us (coffee, sugary soft drinks, juice, etc.), our body will get what it needs.

However, even if we're keeping up with our water consumption, in the summer we can experience higher-than-average temperatures that cause us to sweat faster than we can replace the liquid we're losing.

This is especially true if you're fond of exercising in the summer, but you'd be surprised how fast a summer stroll can turn into a sweat-fest, and result in unexpected dehydration.


How Dehydration Works

Because water's such a big part of our bodily make up, it plays a massive role in controlling our blood volume (blood is mostly water). When our body's lacking fluid, our blood volume decreases... which mean our hearts have to work extra hard to pump blood through our bodies.

With our systems working on overdrive to bring fresh blood to our cells, we experience the symptoms of dehydration:

  • dry mouth
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • lethargy
  • cool skin
  • an inability to pee (because our kidneys are conserving fluid!)


Beat the heat - hydrate!

There are a couple of ways to ensure you stay hydrated in the hot summer months, even without the old 8x8 rule from our childhood.


Listen to your body!

When you feel thirsty, drink. Pay attention to what your body is telling you - it's an incredible machine that will keep you ticking along, as long as you heed its guidance.


Choose beverages wisely

There are very few people I know, even in the health food world, who don't love a cold beer on a hot day. I'm always an advocate of balance, and take no issue with drinking beer - or any alcoholic or caffeinated beverage - once in a while.

But if it's super hot out, you're sweating up a storm, and you're dying of thirst? Start with a coconut water or glass of natural lemonade (without sugar!). You'll provide your body with way more of what it's actually after, and the beer will taste just as good (maybe even better!) when you've regulated your system.


Plan ahead

As I mentioned earlier, even a relaxed summer's walk can start to feel like a gruelling uphill hike if the temperature's high. Always keep something healthy to drink on hand when you're doing ANY kind of exercise in the summer, or when you're sitting in the sun at the beach. (See previous instructions re: coolers full of beer at the beach.)

Skincare, taking vacations and healthy ice cream are all EXTREMELY important parts of summer... make sure you're hydrated enough to really enjoy them!