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House Call: When in doubt, pick water

So your doctor (and this doctor) keeps telling you to drink more fluids.

I already mentioned in two previous columns that you should drink plenty of liquids, especially while exercising or out enjoying a wonderful Inland Northwest summer day. Now I want to help you decide what to drink.

Water, sports drinks, energy drinks, fitness water, juice. The choices can be dizzying – an entire aisle at the grocery store – and of course each manufacturer claims that it has the best product to hydrate you.

What’s a person to do? It depends. You need to consider the following:

•How long are you going to be active?

•How active are you going to be?

•How much will you sweat?

•What are you most inclined to actually drink?

Most of the time, tap water is the drink of choice. Remember that 60 percent of the total adult body weight is water, while the brain is more than 70 percent water. We need water to maintain our metabolism and to break down food into energy.

It is inexpensive, calorie-free, and there are strict standards for the purity of tap water. If it has a taste you do not enjoy, try filtering it. You can attach a filter directly to your tap or get a pitcher with a filter that you can keep in the refrigerator.

The easiest way to remember to drink water is to keep a reusable container with you and try to empty it enough times to get your eight glasses (or 64 ounces) a day. That is how much most people need when not exercising.

You can read more about how much water to drink each day at the Mayo Clinic Web site ( www.mayoclinic.com/ health/water/NU00283).

If you just do not like to drink water, then try flavored water (you can buy flavoring or squeeze some lemon or lime into tap water), fitness water, watered-down sports drinks, or watered-down juice – whatever it takes to keep you sipping during exercise or throughout the day.

When I go for a short bike ride, I usually just take water. For a long bike ride (over an hour) or on a hot day, I take a sports drink – made up from tap water and a sports drink powder mix – to stay hydrated and keep me going.

I’ll try to drink 4 to 6 ounces every 20 minutes or so. If it is especially hot out and I will be sweating more than usual, I drink extra water beforehand and take a sports drink with me. The sugars in sports drinks help keep me energized and the electrolytes (salts) in them replace what I sweat out.

I am not a big fan of energy drinks or sodas. The caffeine and other stimulants can raise your blood pressure, make you shaky, and actually make you urinate and sweat more – which makes you more dehydrated.

In the United States, sodas and energy drinks are usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which has been associated with a higher risk of diabetes and weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners are often the subject of debate regarding their safety, but one serving of these a day is probably still a better choice if you really have to have a soda.

If you do want a sweet drink or are using a sports drink, be sure to check the label to see what type of sugar is used. Try to pick sucrose or glucose (sometimes listed as honey or cane sugar) instead of high fructose corn syrup.

So drink, drink, drink your water. I drink water before, during, and after exercise, but also throughout the day. It makes all the difference to your body when you want to exercise, and drinking more water all the time just helps you feel good.

I was thinking about this while exercising this week and so I wrote a little limerick to help you remember how to choose your drink:

When I’m thirsty I head straight for the tap

Or add flavor to give it some zap

Extra sweaty I think

Swig a sports drink

When I’m hydrated I can go one more lap.

Dr. Alisa Hideg is a family medicine physician at Group Health’s Veradale Medical Center in Spokane. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Today section. Send your questions and comments to drhideg@ghc.org.


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