Skip to main content

Military Health System

Stay Hydrated for Optimal Performance

Image of A soldier takes a drink from his canteen. Army Pfc. Milton A. Torres takes a drink while on guard duty during a Combat Support Tactical Exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Hydration is important for optimal health, particularly in high-heat, dry climates and during outdoors activities. (U.S. Army photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Gary A. Witte)

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

You may have heard that dehydration can occur before you feel thirsty. That’s true – but thirst is only one way your body lets you know you’re low on H2O.

Whether you’re conducting operations, working out, or simply spending a lot of time outdoors in high-heat, extreme cold, high-altitude, dry, or humid climates, keeping hydrated is paramount to optimal performance.

“Water is essential for survival,” said Jonathan Scott, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of military and emergency medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) in Bethesda, Maryland.

“It plays many critical roles in the body, including regulating our body temperature, moistening tissues in the eyes, the nose, the mouth,” said Scott. “It protects our body organs and tissues. It carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells in our body, lubricates joints, helps keep the kidneys and liver functioning properly by flushing out waste products.”

Water comprises about 60% of our body weight. As a result, it also “helps to dissolve vitamins and minerals and nutrients to make them more accessible to your body,” said Scott.

Losing as little as 2% of your body weight through sweating, urinating, and breathing can affect your mental and physical performance. Once you become dehydrated, you may start to feel lightheaded, dizzy, disoriented, fatigued or irritable.

“Feeling thirsty is an indication that there is a fluid imbalance within the body,” added Scott.

That means the amount of fluid you take in versus that which you lose are not in proportion, upsetting your body’s fluid balance. And while you can also take in too much water, dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in, he said.

However, thirst doesn’t let you know how dehydrated you may be. That, Scott said, depends on a variety of factors, including how long you’ve been feeling thirsty, environmental factors, etc.

“Dehydration is a common issue among our military population,” said Navy Lt. Karla Eslinger, an environmental health officer at Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California.

Urine Hydration chart
Although certain foods can alter the color of your urine, typically, when you’re properly hydrated, your urine should be light colored and clear. (Graphic by Human Performance Resources by CHAMP)

A good way to check your hydration level is through your urine.

Although Scott warned there are foods — such as beets and certain dietary supplement ingredients — that can alter the color of your urine, typically, your urine should be straw-colored (light) and clear when you’re well hydrated, said Eslinger.

“Darker and more concentrated urine suggests dehydration,” she said.

This is important, because “long-term consequences of dehydration can include urinary tract infections, kidney stones, even kidney failure, and on the extreme end of the spectrum, seizures, and ultimately death,” said Scott.

Having a battle buddy is important, he added.

“It's usually somebody else who notices something about you before you notice it yourself,” he said. “A buddy might point out you're dragging behind or seem clumsier, ask if you’re okay, and remind you to drink something.”

How much is good enough?

To be fully hydrated, drinking small amounts of fluids constantly throughout the day is best.

Eslinger highlighted that most people need several hours to drink enough fluids to replace what they have lost through sweat.

“The sooner you get started, the less strain you place on your body from dehydration, which is a primary contributor to heat exhaustion,” she said. “Drinking at shorter intervals is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently.”

And while the ideal amount of fluids varies by individual due to body weight, activity, environment, and other factors, Scott suggests that a good rule of thumb is aiming “to consume half your body weight in pounds in fluid ounces daily” as a starting point.

According to his suggestion, an individual weighing 150 lbs. should consume about 75 oz. of liquids daily from food and beverages — that’s equal to almost 9.5 cups. But that’s under normal circumstances and activities. If you exert yourself more than usual, such as exercising or working in the heat, you should aim for more.

The Human Performance Resources by CHAMP (HPRC) at USU’s Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), recommends aiming for 16-32 oz. of fluid every hour, but no more than 48 oz. per hour, during exercise or high-exertion activities. Likewise, hydrating with water during activity under one hour in duration is sufficient. However, for activity lasting longer than one hour, research supports consuming sports drinks that contain electrolytes and carbohydrates.

In addition, many fruits and vegetables are rich in water and minerals, including melons, berries, peaches, oranges, cucumbers, celery, and lettuce. Milk is also an effective rehydrating option, too, Scott said.

“Dairy milk, for those that tolerate dairy, is one of our best hydrating beverages,” he said. “It naturally contains both of those electrolytes (sodium and potassium), and it’s predominantly made up of water.”

What’s even better, chocolate milk is not only rehydrating, he said, but it also helps to replenish some of the carbohydrates that your body burns during prolonged exercise of 60 minutes or longer.

During those types of activities, “your body uses carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscle in the form of glycogen as its predominant fuel source,” said Scott.

“Chocolate milk has carbohydrates, which helps replenish some of those glycogen stores; protein, which we know is important for the repair process; calcium and vitamin D, which we know are crucial for bone health,” he said. “So, it really is a complete deal.”

What to Do During Deployed Operations?

In a deployed environment, options may be limited during operations. In that case, Scott said, “consuming foods and beverages that replace fluids and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) will typically work out better than just plain water alone, but it's important to incorporate those fluids throughout the entire day.”

To make it easier, Eslinger recommends hydrating before work, during work, and after work — especially for people working regularly in high-heat climates, like the desert.

In general, Scott recommends taking rest breaks from high-exertion activities, keeping track of work-to-rest ratios, and using hydration tables based on different heat categories.

Years of military operations in extreme climates has yielded lessons learned for optimal hydration, such as monitoring the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature. Similar to the heat index, this tool is useful in measuring the heat stress on the body and can help “reduce the number of heat stress injuries for participants and leadership,” concluded Eslinger.

You also may be interested in...

DHA’s Mobile Apps Can Help You with Overall Wellness

Article
9/30/2021
A smartphone user using the DHA's Air Force MissionFit app

Healthcare and wellness apps developed by the DHA are proliferating.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Total Force Fitness

Health Promotion duo optimizes health on Incirlik Air Base

Article Around MHS
9/30/2021
Air Force Capt. Sydney Sloan, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion element chief (right), and Air Force Senior Airman Gloriann Manapsal, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion technician (left), promote making healthy choices at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The 39th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion team provides and integrates evidence-based programs to optimize the health and readiness, even during these unprecedented times.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Finding time for fitness during the work week just got easier

Article Around MHS
9/29/2021
A person works out the gym.

The new Army Civilian Fitness and Health Promotion Program now encourages employees to focus on fitness while at work.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Regular physical activity is important for health and performance

Article Around MHS
9/29/2021
A Coast Guardsman works out at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah.

Those who get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week have a much lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—the top killers of Americans every year.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

What is a "healthy" weight-loss eating plan, anyway?

Article Around MHS
9/28/2021
A female soldier poses with an apple in her hand.

Weight loss sounds simple: take less “energy in” (fuel from food and drinks, measured in calories) and use more “energy out” (calories burned through daily physical activity and exercise).

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Understanding Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, Support for Military Children

Article
9/21/2021
Non-suicidal self-injury by adolescents vary based on studies — from 1 in 6 to as high as 1 in 4 — rates have increased over the past 20 years. Given this prevalence and the associated health risks, it’s crucial for anyone treating adolescents to be aware of NSSI.

Non-suicidal self-injury by adolescents vary based on studies — from 1 in 6 to as high as 1 in 4 — rates have increased over the past 20 years.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Public Health

Food Safety Month: Commissaries Join Other Agencies in Highlighting Foodborne Illness Prevention

Article Around MHS
9/13/2021
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Spc. Crystal Vice, a veterinary food inspection specialist with Public Health Activity Fort Carson, checks the expiration date on a peanut butter container Oct. 13, 2020, at the Fort Carson Commissary. Food inspectors randomly check food and other items before they’re put on the shelves for sale. (Photo by Eric E. Parris)

During Food Safety Education Month in September, DeCA joins the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service, the Department of Health and Human Services and other organizations in reinforcing foodborne illness awareness and prevention.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Public Health

As Fitness Tests Resume, Troops Seek Post-COVID Exercise Routines

Article
8/31/2021
Military personnel physically training

Keeping fit during pandemic proves hard for some.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

How Good Diet and Exercise Prevent Injury and Disease

Article
8/30/2021
Photo of group doing pushups.

A proper diet and exercise regimen can ward off disease and aid in maintaining your health.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Injury Prevention | Nutritional Fitness

MHS and MOS Town Hall To Your Health: Dental Health

Article
8/24/2021
MHS and Military OneSource Townhall graphic

MHS and Military OneSource presents a discussion about Dental Health.

Recommended Content:

Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Total Force Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

Ask the Doc: AO2 Energy

Article
7/26/2021
AO2

Dear Doc: Me and the guys in my shop drink A LOT of caffeine. I'm not much of a coffee guy, but I do drink two or three energy drinks a day. I drink a lot of water too, and I'm young and in good shape, but sometimes I feel like I'm a little too reliant on these drinks. I sometimes short myself on sleep only because I know I can have an energy drink or two and be fine for most of the day. Is that a problem? Should I cut back? What are the impacts on my health? Are some forms of caffeine (coffee or tea, for example) better or safer than others? I'd rather focus on this while I'm young and healthy instead of keeping it up for a decade before I realize it's caused a real health problem. -AO2 Energy

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Ask The Doc

AJ-Maste Yoga: Tips for a Healthy Deployment

Article
7/13/2021
Military personnel doing a yoga pose

Yoga comes in many forms and fashions, and has proven health benefits.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Total Force Fitness

CHAMP uses more predictive analytics to improve beneficiary healthcare

Article
7/8/2021
A game of tug-of-war

Military health innovation and Total Force Fitness go hand-in-hand.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | MHS Research Symposium

Turn Post-traumatic Stress Into Post-traumatic Growth

Article
6/30/2021
PTSD Infographic

Myths and facts about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic growth (PTG).

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Total Force Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Aphasia, Caused by Stroke or TBI, is Frustrating and Little Known

Article
6/29/2021
A doctor looking at brain scans

Aphasia is an incurable disease usually caused by stroke that affects all forms of communication.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Heart Health | Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 10
Refine your search
Last Updated: August 10, 2021
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery