By Kim Robson:
Climate change is here. Every summer, we hear of more frequent and deadly heatwaves around the world. Recently, heatwaves have been blamed for countless deathsin Europe, Canada, Australia, China, South America and the U.S.
One of the most important things we can do to avoid dangerous heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke is to keep our bodies hydrated. By the way, once you’ve had heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you will be more sensitive to getting it again in the future.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include the following:
- Muscle cramps
- Heavy sweating
- Pale or cold skin
- Weakness and/or confusion
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dark-colored urine
Warning signs of heatstroke alsoinclude these symptoms:
- Fever of 104°F or higher
- Flushed or red skin
- Lack of sweating
- Trouble breathing
Proper hydration (which includes replacing lost salts) helps regulate body temperature, keeps the heart and other important muscles humming efficiently, prevents headache, aids digestion, and improves your mood! In addition to good old-fashioned water, here’s the skinny on various hydration drinks on the market.
Electrolyte Replacement aka Sports Drinks
When we sweat, we lose more than just water. We also lose salts that are critical for staying hydrated and keeping our muscles working properly — most importantly, the heart muscle. Sports drinks are designed to replace salts like sodium and potassium in addition to water. But most sports drinks like Gatorade are also full of unwanted sugar, carbs, artificial sweeteners and artificial neon colors.
Try Vitalyte ERG (formerly Gookinaid) for a sugar-free, subtly flavored, gluten free, non-GMO sports drink with no preservatives or artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. It comes in powder form, so you can mix up as much or little as you like in your own reusable bottle. I used to take it on grueling backcountry hiking trips.
Or opt for this recipe for a homemade version without all the sugar and artificial additives. Start with a base liquid like coconut water, plain water, or green/herbal tea. Then add somegood salt, calcium and magnesium, and flavor/sweetener to taste.
Stay away from these evil concoctions. They’re packed with tons of caffeine, sugar, and highly questionable additives, none of which are going to help you stay hydrated.
These fancy-pants, expensive bottled water brands don’t do much more than plain water. According to Consumer Reports, “There’s no need to replenish vitamins just because it’s hot out or you went for a run. And if you drink a lot of these, you run the risk of overloading on vitamins, especially if you take a multivitamin and/or eat vitamin-fortified foods, such as certain cereals. Also, read labels; some products are full of sugars.”
Personally, I love coconut water when I’m thirsty. But while it’s low-calorie, potassium-rich, and fat and cholesterol free, there’s little evidence that, for hydration, it’s any better than plain water. But coconut water is still far better than Gatorade.
Other plant waters include watermelon, cucumber, maple, cactus and other flavors —many claiming superior hydrating power. Again, there’s little to no evidence of this. What they all do have is a fair amount of added sugar.
If you really need to have some sort of flavor in your water, try homemade plant waters. Just infuse lemon or lime slices, cubed watermelon, cucumber slices, peach or pineapple slices, or even refreshing herbs like basil or thyme for a delicious and refreshing (and cheap!) alternative to these trendy, overpriced “vitamin waters.”
Iced Tea or Iced Coffee
Tea is full of antioxidants, improves heart health, and lowers the risk of dementia and type 2 diabetes. Coffee provides an energy boost, enhances mood and memory; and its supposed diuretic effect has been shown to be negligiblecompared to the liquid in it.
Avoid bottled iced teas and coffees —they’re full of added sugar, artificial flavors and/or artificial sweeteners. Instead, hit the coffeehouse, pass on the expensive sugar-bomb Frappuccino concoctions, and add your own natural sweetener like honey or agave to taste.
Better yet, brew your own at home! Just don’t brew more than a day or two’s worth at once, though. The antioxidant effect decreases with time, so make it fresh!
For some of us, especially kids, there’s just nothing like cracking open an ice-cold soda and feeling those refreshing bubbles go down. You could invest in one of those nifty home soda machines like SodaStream. They allow you to customize your sodas with only the natural flavors or colors, or with sweeteners of your choosing. Or you could save the money and counter space, and make your own sodas by adding an ounce or two of fruit juice to inexpensive club soda.
Do you have any tricks for staying hydrated in the summer heat? Share with us in the comments below!