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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness, and Exercise


When You’re Hot, Choose the Best Fluid

Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition Specialist, Cass County Extension Center, University of Missouri Extension


We’ve had some warm days lately. It’s track meet season and planting season and it’s our usual bi-seasonal time too, which means it's cool one day and hot the next. On hot, muggy days, you sweat and hope that your deodorant lasts all day! If this is the case, are you drinking enough fluid? And, which fluid should you be drinking? 

First, plain cool water is best. It is absorbed quickly from your stomach and helps keep your body hydrated and cool. In fact, water is the best fluid if you are involved in 60 minutes or less of continuous exercise. If you are involved in 60 minutes or more of continuous exercise, then sports-type drinks or diluted fruit juice is appropriate. 

During some classes I teach, it’s fun learning to have “liquid races.” In this activity, a paper coffee filter and a glass are a simulated stomach. How quickly different fluids are absorbed from the stomach is illustrated by how quickly the fluid passes through the filter. During the “liquid races” students either time or watch to see which liquid is the winner, and which are losers when your body is thirsty. The water was a clear winner! 

A question was raised about sports drinks. What is in them? They contain sodium, sugar, and potassium in addition to water. The sodium and potassium help replace the nutrients depleted by sweat during long, continuous exercise. You can make your own sports drink which is pretty tasty. To make 18 ounces of sports drink, you'll need 2 cups of prepared caffeine-free lemon tea, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 (one-eighth) teaspoon salt and 1/4 (one-fourth) cup orange juice. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot tea. Blend the tea and orange juice and chill. (The recipe is from The High Performance Cookbook by Susan M. Kleiner.) 

If we compare a 6 ounce serving of Gatorade with the homemade version of sports drinks, they have about 40 calories per serving, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, between 83 and 86 grams of sodium and between 19 and 26 grams of potassium. 

How much should you drink? On a normal day, most people need six to eight glasses of fluid, preferably water. If you are involved in physical activity, then the recommendation for fluid intake from the Nutrition Interactive resource is: 

  • 2 cups, 2 hours before activity 
  • THEN, 2 cups, 15 minutes before the activity 
  • DURING the activity, 1/2 to 1 cup every 15 minutes 
  • AFTER the activity, replace each pound of body weight with 2 cups of water.

Depending on your body size and the type of activity, you may need to consume more fluids more frequently. 

What about other fluids? Diluted 100 percent fruit juice (1 part water to 1 part juice) is fine. Soft drinks or undiluted fruit juice can lead to stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea. And, caffeinated beverages will increase dehydration. 

To check your fluid level, your urine color should be the color of lemon juice - pale yellow. If your urine is closer to the color of apple juice then you need to drink more water. 

Toast yourself frequently with water.







Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009





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