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Water and sports drinks, what to drink, how much and when

Staff Sgt. Shaun Martin, a combat medic assigned to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital's LaPointe Army Medical Home on Fort Campbell, drinks from a 16-ounce bottle of water to maintain his hydration for optimal performance. On average, the Army recommends men should consume about 100 ounces of fluid (3 liters) each day, and women should aim for about 70 ounces (2 liters) for baseline hydration. In hot and humid environments and during physical activity, more is needed to maintain hydration — about one ounce per pound of body weight. To reach your goal, drink regularly and frequently, even if you are not thirsty to avoid dehydration. Water is usually the best choice over coffee, soda, energy drinks and alcohol because those beverages can pull water from the body and promote dehydration. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager) Army Staff Sgt. Shaun Martin, a combat medic assigned to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital's LaPointe Army Medical Home on Fort Campbell, drinks from a 16-ounce bottle of water to maintain his hydration for optimal performance. On average, the Army recommends men should consume about 100 ounces of fluid (3 liters) each day, and women should aim for about 70 ounces (2 liters) for baseline hydration. In hot and humid environments and during physical activity, more is needed to maintain hydration — about one ounce per pound of body weight. To reach your goal, drink regularly and frequently, even if you are not thirsty to avoid dehydration. Water is usually the best choice over coffee, soda, energy drinks and alcohol because those beverages can pull water from the body and promote dehydration. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager)

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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — If physical activity in the summertime has you feeling hot, sweaty, and thirsty, it’s only natural to reach for an ice cold drink to quench your body’s thirst, but not all beverages are created equal when it comes to rehydration. Certain beverages can cause more harm than good when it comes to hydration.

“Army-wide, heat injuries are on the rise with the highest rates in Soldiers less than 25 years old,” said Army Capt. Erica Jarmer, a registered dietitian at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital. Jarmer recently hosted training for hospital staff and Fort Campbell tenant units regarding proper hydration for Soldiers and athletes. Dietitians and medics have a critical role in teaching health related Army skills, to include tactical hydration.

“Overall, I enjoyed the class. Many Soldiers are so under educated when it comes to taking care of themselves. We are required to ask a lot physically of our bodies but we don't always get the education needed to perform at our peak levels. I hope there are many more classes like this offered to Soldiers,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Alvey, non-commissioned officer in charge of BACH’s Department of Primary Care and a line medic, who participated in the training.

“Hydration for tomorrow occurs today. Hydration for today occurred yesterday,” said Jarmer. “Often times we’re playing catch up. If Soldiers and athletes understand their baseline hydration needs and routinely maintain their hydration status, our need for reactive rehydration will decrease.”

Baseline fluid needs are based on body weight, half an ounce of fluid per pound is adequate for most individuals. This equates to about three liters of fluid per day for men and about two liters per day for women.

Once baseline hydration is established, adjustments can be made for environmental factors and physical activity. In hot, humid environments, at high altitude, and with physical activity, more fluid is required to maintain hydration. A quick estimate for these conditions would be one ounce per pound of body weight.

Soldiers should hydrate regularly and frequently, even when they are not thirsty in order to avoid dehydration. Water is usually the better choice over caffeinated or sugary beverages, which include, but are not limited to soda, energy drinks, coffee, beer and alcohol, fruit juices, sweet tea, and lemonade. Those beverages can pull water from the body and promote dehydration.

“Activities that result in significant sweat losses may require a properly formulated sports drink during and after activity,” said Jarmer. “A sports drink can provide energy and maintain hydration by replenishing electrolytes lost in sweat. However, no sports drink is going to be a substitute for baseline hydration.”

One method to analyze hydration status is to monitor urine color. “Urine should be light yellow; dark yellow or brown urine is indicative of dehydration. Clear urine is a sign that we are not consuming adequate electrolytes to maintain our fluid status,” said Jarmer.

Dehydration can very quickly result in reduced cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and mental function.

“Performance suffers from even small amounts of dehydration,” said Jarmer. “Proper hydration is key. Soldiers must be educated on how to meet their baseline hydration needs and how to appropriately account for activity and environmental factors.”

Jarmer’s training included educating medical personnel on appropriate use of sports drinks to prevent dehydration as well as methods to treat Soldiers and athletes experiencing heat injuries.

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