By Debbie Herbst, RD, LD, CDE
Mercy Hospital Carthage
When you think of drinking, do you think of ice-cold water, sweet tea, sports drinks, pop, milk, juice, beer, wine or something else? Your answer might raise more questions:
What about all the messages to stay hydrated? How much water are you supposed to drink? Does coffee or tea count as fluid?
With warmer temperatures and more outdoor activities, summer is an ideal time to think about your drinks, including for kids and the elderly.
Water is the best drink because it has no calories, caffeine or sugar. Drinking enough water helps your muscles work the best and helps you think your best. The amount of water needed is based on whether you are male or female and your weight, age and activity level.
On the other hand, if your body does not get enough water, you may feel sluggish or irritable. Drinking enough water helps prevent overheating and constipation, plus replaces fluids lost from sweating. Not drinking enough water can cause blood sugars and blood pressure to run higher.
If you don’t like water, try chilling water in bottles or in a pitcher in the refrigerator. Add slices of cucumber, lemon, lime or chopped fruit to add flavor. Add ice cubes made of fruit juice to water.
Children usually need encouragement to drink enough water. Buying a sporty or colorful water bottle for them can help. Older people do not sense thirst as well, so often need to be reminded to drink enough water. Keep a glass, bottle or small pitcher of cool, fresh water near their chair or bedside.
How much water per day is enough? It’s enough when urine is pale or almost colorless and with little odor. For average adults, drink 1 ounce of water for about 2 pounds of body weight, such as 80 ounces if you weigh 160 pounds. Other drinks don’t count toward this total.
What about sports drinks? If you are working outside in hot weather or doing active sports that result in a lot of sweating, sports drinks can help replace the loss of certain minerals called electrolytes.
Replacing those minerals can help keep your muscles and your brain working well. Replacing the minerals also can keep up energy level and help with work and sports performance.
On the other hand, sports drinks are not necessary for casual outdoor activity or less vigorous work. Sports drinks, unlike water, have calories unless it is an artificially sweetened sports drink like Powerade Zero or G2.
Drinks like pop, sweetened teas, fruit drinks or coffee drinks should be saved for a special treat. These drinks are full of added sugar and calories, so it’s like drinking a dessert.
One can (12 ounces) of regular soda has 150 calories. Sweet tea (16 ounces) has an average of 200 calories. While they’re OK to drink once in awhile, they are not good for every day.
Sweetened drinks can make you feel thirstier, cause tooth decay, lead to weight gain and add to high blood sugars or diabetes. Children tend to prefer sweetened drinks rather than drinking water or milk, but it’s important that parents help them establish healthy habits.
Milk provides electrolytes naturally, along with calcium for bone health in adults and children. Fruit juices that are 100 percent juice also provide electrolytes naturally.
Drinking water is the foundation of good health, as is milk and, in moderation, juice. A serving size is 8 ounces or 1 cup for milk and 4 ounces or a half cup for 100 percent fruit juice.
Barbecues, picnics, beach or lake parties, and baseball games are traditional for drinking alcohol, which draws water out of the body. Dehydration also can happen more easily during outside activities in hot weather.
Drinking too much alcohol can blunt the thirst sensation. An easy tip is to alternate a glass (or bottle) or two of water between each alcoholic beverage.
What about tea and coffee? Caffeine drinks also draw water out of the body, and therefore have a dehydrating effect. Other examples are diet and regular sodas, and caffeine-containing energy drinks.
Drink two glasses (or 16 ounces) of water for every 8 ounces of a caffeinated drink. Check with your doctor before using caffeinated beverages.
Enjoy the summer, just drink wisely and well for maximum fun and fitness.
Mercy clinical nutrition dietitians at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus, 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way, can be reached at 417-359-1359.