Tap the Power of Water

Water is one of the most important parts of your diet. With the summer sun out in full force, remembering to drink enough water is even more crucial to your health.

Your body needs water for basic chemical reactions to take place. In fact, water accounts for much of your body weight (about 60 percent for men and about 50 percent for women). When you don't drink enough water, your body can't function at its best. As dehydration sets in, you'll feel tired, lethargic, and you may have trouble thinking clearly.

Water is also crucial to the body's cooling system. When your body heats up—because of a hot day or because of physical activity, for instance—your brain signals your sweat glands to produce sweat. The body cools itself by the evaporation of sweat from the skin. If dehydrated, the body can't sweat enough to stay cool.

How much do you need?

Exactly how much you need to drink depends on whom you ask. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should look at the color of your urine: If you're drinking enough water, your urine will be pale like lemonade rather than darker like apple juice.

Weight loss is also a good gauge. By weighing yourself before and after you spend time in the hot sun, you can tell how much you should be drinking. For every pound you lose, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that women get 91 ounces of water a day (about 11½ cups) and men about 125 ounces a day (about 15½ cups). These figures refer to total water, from beverages and food. The IOM says that most people can use thirst as a guide for when they need to rehydrate. Athletes and older adults, however, may not feel thirsty before they're already dehydrated. Athletes and older adults need to set times to drink and not rely on thirst.

Stick to water and other low-calorie beverages. Sports drinks are generally not necessary unless you're participating in intense physical activity for long periods of time. And don't just drink water; eat it, too, by loading up on fruits and vegetables. They're brimming with water.