By Mackie Shilstone

During hot and humid days, we lose excessive amounts of water from our bodies through perspiration. You can get dehydrated very quickly if you don't take proper precautions, especially if you are involved in outdoor physical activities.

This is why it is critically important that you learn about how to stay hydrated. The best thing you can drink is water.Water is essential for the well-being of the body. Under optimal conditions, the body can survive for 60 days without food, but only 10-18 days without water. You skin is made up of about 70% water, so any loss of body water equaling 2-3% of our body weight will begin to affect performance adversely. Loss of 4-5% of body weight results in reduced carrying capacity of the blood for nutrients, as well as reduced ability to remove heat from the body.

There are many types of "thirst quenchers" or "energy drinks" on the market today and new brands are coming out all the time. Most of them are good for replenishing certain types of nutrients that are lost through perspiration during extended outdoor activities greater than 60-90 minutes. However, most of them contain high levels of simple sugar. This is not what you need on hot, humid days -- or any other time, for that matter. For the same reason, you should not rely on carbonated soft drinks, alcoholic beverages or caffeinated drinks to maintain your body's liquid levels. These fluids can have a diuretic effect, increasing fluid loss.

Water is important in nearly all of life's chemical processes, and the production, growth and life of skin cells depends on it. Water within the cells helps make your skin look smooth, firm and tight. It is important for the functioning of our bodies' internal organs, as well.

So how much water should we drink? Under moderate environmental conditions and activity levels, the body needs approximately 2,000 milliliters (slightly more than two quarts) of water each day. Continuous sweating during prolonged exercise can reach a rate of 800 to 1,000 milliliters per hour. If you're taking medication for your heart or have a chronic illness, be sure to check with your physician about your recommended fluid intake.

Fruits (primarily melons and citrus), as well as vegetables (cucumbers and leafy greens, mainly), contain more than 80% water. Most meats are about 50% water. They can help your body attain a certain amount of water but don't depend on food to supply your basic water needs.

It is important to drink water before, during and after exercise. In hot environments, active people should drink about 16 ounces of water 15 to 30 minutes prior to working out. After a workout, replenish fluids at the rate of one pint of water for every pound lost."

Can you drink too much water? The answer is yes, but not very easily. The brain has a water control center similar to the control that alerts the body to heat and cold. A dry mouth activates this mechanism.

A great thing to know, also, is that water has no calories. Learn the facts about staying hydrated and don't overexert yourself outdoors in hot weather without proper hydration. Drink plenty of pure, fresh water and you'll beat the heat and stay healthy.