Health and Wellness

With temperatures hitting record highs, here's how you should properly hydrate, according to experts

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Basketball player drinking water during break in pickup game with friends on outdoor basketball court
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Summer has just started but many parts of the country are already experiencing record high temperatures. Portland, Oregon soared to 116 degrees Monday, while temperatures in other Northwest cities including Seattle, Boise and Reno all blazed into triple digits.

With such extreme heat, experts advise that hydrating is one of the most important things you can do. Dehydration can not only be dangerous — it can lead to heat exhaustion, for instance — but staying hydrated is crucial for overall health. Water does things like keep joints lubricated and prevent infections and it also improves sleep quality and cognition, including perception, judgment and reasoning, and mood.

So how can you stay properly hydrated in this heat? Here's what two leading hydration experts had to say.

Plain old water is usually enough

"Generally speaking, for most people, [drinking] water is totally acceptable" during a heatwave, says Douglas Casa, a professor of kinesiology and the director of Athletic Training Education at the University of Connecticut, who has been studying hydration for more than 20 years.

For instance, "if people who are exercising for 30, 60 [or] 90 minutes outside, just having cold water is going to be totally fine for them," says Casa, who is also CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute.

There are some people who might need added electrolytes, like laborers and construction workers (who have to work outside in the heat), soldiers who are training and exercising all day and high-level athletes, who train several times a day.

Casa says salty foods like soups, pretzels and peanuts also help restore electrolytes.

"We tell athletes and people to heavily salt their foods at meals because they really need to take in a lot of extra salt when they're sweating a lot in the summertime," he says.

However, Casa says there is an important benefit with flavored sports drinks: People love them. "If you like something better, you're probably going to drink more of it and do a better job rehydrating," he says.

Plus, drinks with sodium help your body retain fluids better and also keep you thirsty, so you drink more.

Casa suggests keeping your beverages cold to make them taste better and to help cool down your body.

Don't focus on how many glasses of water, look at this instead

So how much water should you be drinking in extreme heat?

Stavros Kavouras, assistant dean of graduate education and professor of nutrition at Arizona State University who studies hydration and its impact it has on health and performance, says rather than relying on a certain number of glasses of water — like the usual eight glasses a day recommendation you often hear — instead pay attention to two simple biomarkers: how often you urinate and what color it is.

When optimally hydrated, you should be going to the bathroom every two to three hours and your urine should look similarly colored to lemonade. If it looks more like orange juice that's an indication that your body is trying to conserve water and you need to hydrate more.

"I would suggest keeping water in arm's reach," says Kavouras.

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