Area experts offer tips for keeping hydrated in the hot summer weather

You may think you’ve heard it all before when it comes to staying hydrated in the summer, but experts say they have some things to say that you may not have heard before.

In the hot summer months, it’s especially important for people to drink lots of liquids to ward off dehydration, said Megan Prisk, a registered dietitian with UPMC Altoona.

“The amount of fluid you need depends on factors such as age, medical status, physical activity and climate,” she said.

Staying hydrated is important because without water, your body can’t function, said Elisabeth D’Alto, a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Martin’s grocery stores.

“Water plays a critical role in every part of your body,” she said, controlling everything from metabolism, heart function to body temperature. “You can go for several days without food, but you can’t live for very long without water.”

Of course, most experts choose water as the fluid of choice to stay hydrated because it has no additives such as sugars or artificial sweeteners, said D’Alto. But she and Prisk suggested people don’t need to limit themselves to just basic water, especially if they find plain water boring or they don’t like the taste. The nutritionists said water can easily be spruced up with slices of lemon or lime to improve the taste.

D’Alto offered other creative ideas such as steeping water with apple slices and cinnamon sticks or berries and herbs such as strawberries and mint. The key is to leave the ingredients in a pitcher of water overnight to get an intense, full-bodied flavor, she said.

“I always tell people to try to flavor it themselves,” she said. “There are lots of different combinations out there that water easily absorbs.”

It seems like people are listening when it comes to drinking more water, especially in the summer months when local water bottling companies like Roaring Spring Water notice an increase in sales, said a company representative.

Scott Hoover, who is general manager for Roaring Spring Water, said his company usually does well in the summer.

“Hot summer weather always brings a big jump in sales and delivery requests for our bottled water products,” he said. “Existing customers drink more water to stay hydrated and we have more requests from new customers as well.”

Of course, summertime also

means a lot of activities outdoors. Many people turn to sports drinks instead of water when they’re doing those physical activities and that can be a good idea if activities are especially demanding on the body, said Prisk.

“A sports drink with added electrolytes may be useful to replenish those lost in sweat,” she said.

However, she cautioned that those types of drinks aren’t recommended for young children and people with specific medical conditions. For those people she suggested water and a piece of fruit instead.

In addition to sports drinks, D’Alto said people often choose other beverages that aren’t as good for the body as water, such as alcohol, soda, both diet and regular, and flavored waters. She suggested if people want to have some cold beer on a hot day that they alternate it with a glass of water to offset the effect of the alcohol.

But she emphasized that water truly is the best drink as far as hydration goes because it is most easily absorbed by the body. Any other drink has ingredients that need to be processed by the body, she said.

Hoover said because his company understands the importance of staying hydrated in the summer, especially for people involved in sports, the company helps out at sporting events.

“At Roaring Spring Water, we realize the negative impact dehydration can have on the body,” he said, “so we play an active role in the communities we service by donating water for things like races to ensure runners are hydrated.”

D’Alto recommended people who care for the elderly should pay particular attention because as people age, the sensation of thirst lessens, she said. She suggested people taking care of an older person should serve a glass of water with each meal and have bottles of water readily available so that the person can sip on water throughout the day and night.

Water isn’t the only way people are able to achieve hydration, Prisk said. They can also stay hydrated by eating water-rich foods, such as lettuce, broccoli, melon and citrus fruits, she said.

“Try incorporating more fruits and vegetables as they are high in water content and minerals that may be lost during perspiration,” she said.

Hoover suggested drinking a glass of water before each meal and also every time you walk by a water fountain or a water cooler.

“Some people wait until they are thirsty but at that point, your body has already signaled it is feeling dehydrated,” he said.