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Healthy Hydration; It’s Not What You Might Think

Special Olympics Vermont is a member of the Chronic Disease and Disability Advisory Group through the Vermont Department of Health. This is the first in a series of blog posts containing health information for our athletes.  

Everybody knows the “rule”. To stay properly hydrated, drink eight glasses of water a day. Hmmm, think about that for a second; when has one size ever fit all when it comes to health and nutrition? Something’s off. Let’s take a moment to learn how to stay well hydrated throughout the day and while we’re training and being active.

Fortunately, our bodies come with a handy, built-in, system to ensure we don’t dry out. This magical system is thirst. Generally, we can rely on this sense to make sure we drink enough water. Some conditions require that we consume extra water: Heat (and sweating), increased activity, fever, increased salt intake, increased fiber intake, and vomiting or diarrhea all require extra fluid. Conveniently, thirst tends to increase under these conditions, so we have that going for us. Even so, these conditions require a bit of extra attention to fluid intake. In addition to thirst, it sometimes makes sense to also pay attention to the actual amount that we’re drinking. This is especially true for athletes.

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The amount of water that each of us needs depends on many things, age, gender, what we eat… and so on. Fortunately, there’s a trick to finding the right amount. Divide your weight by 2 to get a general recommendation. A person weighing 150 pounds needs about 75 ounces (9 cups) of water per day. Seem like a lot? Don’t forget that water also comes from our food, particularly fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. They are made of mostly water and it all counts. But don’t become so focused on the numbers that you ignore thirst; it’s a pretty good indicator.

With all of this in mind, here are some helpful tips to help you spread the message about staying well-hydrated:

  1. Pay attention to thirst and stop for a drink if you need it.

  2. Note: If your thirst is leading you to constantly drink water, take the time to chat with your healthcare provider as EXCESS thirst can signal something more serious, like diabetes.

  3. Choose water instead of beverages sweetened with sugar. Sugary beverages can add hundreds of calories per day without giving your body any helpful nutrients. Most sports drinks, such as Gatorade, fall into this category, so unless you’re constantly moving for more than an hour at a time (think long distance running) skip the sports drinks and have some water.

  4. Carry a water bottle. This one probably seems obvious, but it makes a big difference in how much we drink. Freezing the water overnight will give you a refreshing cold beverage the next day.

  5. Jazz up plain water with wedges of lemon, lime or orange.

  6. Choose water when eating out. This not only saves calories, but money too!

  7. Serve flavored seltzer at parties and gatherings– offering a selection of cut fruit for garnish can help this option feel like a special treat.

As athletes, it’s important that we drink plenty of water without overdoing it. Following thirst and making it a point to drink water during training and competition can help keep us in that sweet spot. Drinking enough can help us feel our best while also improving our athletic performance!

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