Drink for your health

June 26, 2002|By LYNN F. LITTLE

Fluids are essential for good health. Fluids move fuel and oxygen to your muscles and take wastes away from them.

When you are well hydrated, physical activity feels easier and is more enjoyable. Dehydration makes it harder for muscles to get the energy they need, which can make you feel exhausted and irritable.

Most of us know that drinking plenty of fluids is important. However, it's easy to get confused about which beverages are best and how much we need to drink during the day.

Fortunately, getting enough to drink is easy and inexpensive. All it takes is just a bit of time and planning to establish a healthy drinking habit. The payoffs are both immediate and long-term. You'll have more energy for daily fitness, and you'll reap some life-long health benefits at the same time.


Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Drinking fluids throughout the day can make a big difference in your physical and mental health. Fluids are essential for a strong immune system, efficient muscles and a positive attitude.

Here's how to get into a good fluid intake schedule.

  • To get moving in the morning, drink milk or 100 percent juice with your tea or coffee. Drink at least 8 ounces of non-caffeinated beverages before you leave the house.

  • Drink water throughout the day. Stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle handy at all times. Carry a water bottle in the car, to work or at school. If you want a drink with fizz, try sparkling water or club soda instead of a soft drink.

  • Drink milk (and more water) with dinner. Everybody - from the kids to the grandparents - needs calcium to stand strong and tall. Milk (1 percent or fat-free) is a delicious way to get bone-building calcium, protein, other nutrients and fluid at the same time.

  • Drink before physical activity. Being well hydrated enhances your performance and your enjoyment. Drink at least 8 to 16 ounces of water before you begin any intense physical activity.

  • Drink during physical activity. Stay cool with cool fluids. Drink 4 to 8 ounces for every half-hour of strenuous activity. Water works great in most situations. Sports drinks or diluted fruit juice may help some people drink the fluid they need.

  • Drink after physical activity. The three Rs - rest, re-fuel and re-hydrate - are the keys to recovery after physical activity. Drink another 8 to 16 ounces of water, juice or sport drink when you finish a game, a practice, a dance class or a hike.

  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. This means one drink per day for women and two drinks for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or one and one-half ounces of distilled spirits.

    If you drink alcohol, drink legally. Some people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all. This includes young people under the legal drinking age of 21 years. It is also illegal to drive with elevated blood alcohol levels.

    If you drink alcohol, drink responsibly. Women who are pregnant, or who may become pregnant, should not drink alcohol. Drinking during pregnancy is associated with birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the leading known cause of mental retardation.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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