It’s Saturday, 90 degrees and sunny, and your friends invite you to hang out on the beach or their boat at Lake Monroe. You go to pack a cooler and have a choice to make: throw in some beer or water?
A cold beer can be refreshing on a hot day (but only for those 21+), but it can also be dangerous and here’s why:
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes your blood vessels expand, or dilate, and decreases the production of the hormone that keeps you from peeing and losing all of your water. This is why you probably know the phrase breaking the seal and also feel a little warmer when you drink.
First let’s address why peeing a lot as a result of alcohol is bad news in hot weather. As you pee, your body loses water and becomes dehydrated. Most hangovers are a direct result of dehydration.
But you’re probably saying to yourself, “But if I drink a lot of water, I pee a lot too and I’m not at risk for dehydration then.” You’re absolutely right. The difference is your body will actually continue to absorb that water you need to survive. With alcohol, it inhibits your body’s ability to absorb water effectively, so you end up dehydrated.
The other reason not to drink in hot weather is because alcohol decreases your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Remember how I said your blood vessels dilate? If your blood vessels are bigger, it allows for more warm blood to pump through your body at a higher volume. This can cause you to sweat more and once again, become dehydrated. If you’re already dehydrated, you won’t sweat as much, which means your body won’t be able to cool you off very well.
So why is dehydration so bad? In hot weather, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion which can in turn lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke can lead to organ damage and even death!
It would be unrealistic of me to believe you won’t drink during the summer months, so here are some tips for staying safe if you decide to drink.
Drink a lot of water or sports drinks before, during and after drinking alcohol.
Not only should you be drinking water while drinking alcohol, you should also prepare by drinking a substantial amount of water before you begin drinking. This way, your body can actually absorb the water. When you start drinking, your body’s ability to absorb water decreases substantially, so it’s better to start off with a full tank than try to fill it up while driving.
Limit your drinks to 1 or 2 per day.
You shouldn’t be binge drinking as it is, but it is especially true on hot days. The more you drink, the more water you’re going to lose. That increases your chance of dehydration, which then leads to the heat related illnesses.
Have a great summer and stay cool!
Cover image credit: Maciek PELC