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The Wonders of Water 

As we approach the hottest days of summer, many of you will be involved in outdoor activities, whether it is exercise or other types of physical activity. In a climate as hot as it is in south Louisiana, we lose excessive amounts of water from our bodies through perspiration, and we can get dehydrated quickly if we don't take proper precautions.

This is why it is critically important that we stay hydrated during these hot, humid summer months. The best thing you can drink to maintain optimum levels of hydration is water. Remember, water is necessary for the well-being of the body. According to Athletic Training and Sports Medicine, published by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, "Under optimal conditions, the body can survive for 60 days without food, but only 10-18 days without water. A loss of body water equaling 2-3 percent of our body weight will begin to affect performance adversely. Loss of 4-5 percent of body weight results in reduced carrying capacity of the blood for nutrients, as well as reduced ability to remove heat from the body."

There are many types of "thirst quenchers" or "energy drinks" on the market, and most are good for replenishing certain types of nutrients that are lost through perspiration. However, many contain inordinate amounts of sugar, which is not what you need on hot, humid days. For the same reason, you should not rely on carbonated drinks, alcoholic beverages or caffeinated drinks to maintain your liquid levels. These fluids can have a diuretic effect, increasing fluid loss.

According to Dr. Diana Bihhova, author of Beauty From the Inside Out, "Water is important in nearly all of life's chemistry, and the production, growth and life of skin cells depend on it. Water within the cells helps make your skin look smooth, firm and tight." Your skin is made up of 70 percent water.

So how much water should we drink? "Under moderate environmental conditions and activity levels, the body needs approximately 2,000 milliliters (slightly more than two quarts) of water each day," according to Athletic Training and Sports Medicine. If you're taking medication for your heart or have a chronic illness, check with your physician about recommended fluid intake.

Fruits (primarily melons and citrus), as well as vegetables (mainly cucumbers and leafy greens), contain more than 80 percent water; most meats are about 50 percent water. But don't depend on food to supply your basic water needs. It is important to drink water before, during and after exercise. In hot environments, active people should drink about 16 oz. of water 15 to 30 minutes prior to working out. "After a workout, replenish fluids at the rate of 1 pint of water for every pound lost," Athletic Training and Sports Medicine recommends.

A great thing to know also is that water has no calories, so you don't have to worry about gaining weight. In summary, take extra care of yourself this summer and don't overexert yourself outdoors in hot weather without proper hydration. Drink plenty of pure, fresh water and you'll beat the heat and stay healthy.

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