If you live anywhere that offers steamy conditions June-September, hydration in the summertime is an obvious need. We’ve talked about it a couple of times recently on the Think Tank, and we’ve stressed the importance of hydration as it affects heat related illness. In the spring and summer, walking from the car into the grocery store can be a sweating event. Working outside building tanks or in a shop fabricating steel plate are akin to a major long-lasting athletic endeavor. We are well aware that we need to replace fluids, because we’re sweating all the time.
But what about in the fall and winter, when the humidity is low, temperatures are lower, and working hard doesn’t make you feel quite as depleted? When your sweat actually evaporates like it’s supposed to and you’re not dripping wet at the end of a day, or at the end of an activity?
Check out these facts about hydration, and take care of
yourself this fall and winter!
64 Oz Per Day Is Probably Not Enough For You
The old adage that you should have (8) 8-oz glasses of water a day is probably an understatement for most of us. It’s a great start, and certainly anyone who has 64 oz of water a day is better off than someone who has no water, but many people need a good bit more. Current research indicates that a good target for water consumption is taking half your body weight (in pounds) and applying that to ounces of water. Example:
If you weigh 225 lbs, you should have about 112 oz of water/day
If you weigh 150 lbs, you should have about 75 oz water/day
This amount is what you need for normal, everyday body functioning – if you are very physically active, on the job or in terms of exercise, you’ll need more water.
Water Affects Your Mental And Physical Performance
Not having enough water has a huge impact on how your body functions. Chrissy Barth, dietitian for the Arizona Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, points out that dehydration “can also greatly impact how well a person functions at physical tasks.” She says that “even a 2 percent dehydration level can decrease performance. That's just four pounds of fluid lost on a 200-pound frame.” According to Vitalyte, the first sign of dehydration is actually mental. “The brain is the most sensitive organ of the body and even the slightest changes in the body’s chemistry will affect it. Long before you begin to feel thirsty; when you are down less than 1% of your body weight (1-1/2 pints in a 150-lb person) because of fluid loss, mental acuity is affected. You don’t even start to feel thirsty until you’re down 3% of your body weight and, because you’re not thinking as clearly as you should, you may not even notice that you are thirsty, especially if you are trying to concentrate on a task.” So if you’re even a little bit dehydrated, you’re not functioning at your best. Pretty scary when you think about operating a crane, or a forklift, or building a two million gallon steel storage tank.
Other Liquids Just Can't Do The Trick
There are a million different options out there, but the single best thing for any of us to drink is W-A-T-E-R. An occasional soft drink or even your morning joe is fine, but only in addition to consuming an adequate amount of water. Not only do other drinks fail to help our bodies the way water does, they can actually make things worse. More from Vitalyte: “Coffee and caffeinated soft drinks can also cause you to lose more fluids.” Your body will pull water from your system in order to dilute caffeine, excess sugar and other chemicals in drinks. So, you may have just had a 32 oz Diet Coke, but now you have LESS water in your body than you did before you drank it. Gatorade, Powerade, and other electrolyte replacement "sports" drinks do offer important benefits, depending on how much fluid you lose in a workday or in an activity. They can be excellent supplements, but the bottom line is that water is an absolute must.
By The Time You Think "Man, I'm Thirsty!", It's Almost Too Late
By the time you process the thought that you could really use some water, you are already well on your way to dehydration. That signal comes after a lack of water has begun to affect your whole body, even your brain. Sports nutritionists advise that hydration should always be proactive, not reactive. Don’t wait until you think you’re thirsty to hydrate. Starting your day with water is important – if you start with coffee, you’re already running a water deficit. According to EHS Today, “hydration experts from NIOSH, ACGIH and OSHA recommend drinking every 15 to 20 minutes -- not just during rest breaks -- to stay sufficiently hydrated and maintain a safe core body temperature. This puts less strain on the cardiovascular system
and can lead to fewer heat-related illnesses and injuries.”
Cooler Temperatures Can Trick You Into Thinking You're Just Fine
If you’re working or exercising outside on a cool fall day, or even a cold winter day, you’re just not as aware of losing fluids as you are when you’re sweating buckets in mid-August. First of all, humidity tends to be lower and as your sweat evaporates, you feel cooled off and fairly dry. Secondly, the colder it is, the more your body works to protect you from the cold. Nuun (a hydration drink) explains it this way: "blood (rushes) away from your extremities to your core to keep you toasty so there is more fluid than normal in your core. When this happens your body and brain don’t register that you have lost any fluid!” It’s just as important to maintain hydration in cooler, drier winter conditions as it is in steamy summer conditions, and it can be harder to recognize that you need water!
This fall and winter - stay hydrated; stay safe!
OSHA offers great information on hydration and related topics.
Additional info related to heat, heat related illness, and hydration:
Heat Safety - Vital For Storage Tank Contractors And Everyone Else
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