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Drink Up

How to hydrate your body well…
By Karen Kwan
With the weather warming up, staying well hydrated becomes more of a priority (especially since many of us tend to also ramp up our fitness regimens during the spring and summer seasons). But how much water should you drink? Is it eight glasses daily, or does it depend on too many factors to have just one standard recommendation?
There is no rigid amount of water that is recommended universally for everyone, says Tara Postnikoff, a Toronto-based nutritionist, though she points out that we are made up of 60 to 65 per cent water and it’s important to maintain this balance. Keep in mind that, other than water, some of the foods you eat and beverages you consume will contribute to your hydration needs (think fruit such as strawberries, pineapples and oranges, plus the herbal tea you drink regularly). However, “it’s a good idea for adults to make water the primary fluid,” says Postnikoff, who offers nutrition services as well as coaching and training through her company, Healthy Eating Active Living. She suggests aiming to drink approximately half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water. This way, she says, you avoid the intake of unnecessary calories, sweeteners and flavourings.
If you’re hitting the workout circuit hard, you will need to up your water needs more than someone who is more sedentary. During your activity, maintain your hydration levels with 500 mL of fluid per hour. “This will help with your athletic performance, decrease risk of injury– through lubrication and shock absorption– and help maintain your body’s core temperature,” says Postnikoff. If your exercise lasts longer than three hours, she adds, your fluids should contain some sodium to help maintain your electrolyte balance.
With so many factors in play, what’s your best M.O.? Sip water throughout the day. While you may be tempted to gulp down your daily needs all at once so you can tick it off your to-do list, that won’t be beneficial. “Your body likes balance. Greatly increasing your fluid intake at any one time will increase you need for urination as your kidneys try to rebalance fluid levels in the body. So start with small changes rather than large ones,” says Postnikoff. “There is only so much your kidneys can process at one time!”
Keep in mind that you can over-hydrate. While hypernatremia (a high concentration of sodium in the blood) is uncommon, it can be dangerous. You can monitor whether you’re doing a good job at meeting your hydration needs by keeping an eye on your urine. “If it’s dark yellow or amber, then you need to up your water intake,” says Postnikoff. The goal is not for your urine to be clear; instead, aim for a pale straw or champagne colour. Make it a habit to have a quick peek in the bowl before you flush.

KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.

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