Water enables your body to operate at peak efficiency. It also serves as a natural air-conditioning system: When you sweat, the perspiration cools your body and prevents it from building up excessive internal heat. Your muscles become weak and fatigued when you don't give your body enough water, so it's essential to stay well hydrated.
Thirst is an automatic signal that our bodies are deprived of water. However, if you perspire profusely while gardening, particularly on hot, humid days, you may lose water so quickly that your thirst mechanism can't keep up; you'll lose essential fluids before your body warns you to replenish them.
Your body will utilize water more effectively if you give it moderate amounts periodically instead of excessive amounts all at once. So while you're gardening, drink a few ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Keep a supply of cool water (your body absorbs cool drinks more quickly than lukewarm ones) close at hand so you don't have to go back into the house every time you need a drink.
If plain water isn't your cup of tea (actually, iced herbal tea is another good option), add a few squirts of fresh lemon or lime juice or some fresh shredded mint leaves. Spearmint, applemint, or peppermint leaves give ordinary tap water a fresh, cool taste and make it easier to swallow, so to speak. Because plastic can impart an unpleasant taste to water, particularly if the bottle sits in the sun, use a glass bottle or thermos. If you prefer ice-cold water, drink it slowly to avoid upsetting your stomach.
Although good-quality water is by far the best source of hydration, it doesn't have to be your only one. Blend cut-up fruits and vegetables with yogurt, milk, or ice to make energy-boosting drinks you can sip while you snip and clip. Because fruit and vegetable drinks provide a highly concentrated source of nutrients, these liquid snacks are also ideal before or after you garden.
Experiment by using different fruit nectars and juices, tofu instead of yogurt, soy or rice milk instead of low-fat milk. You can also thicken your drink with soy powder for additional protein. Add flavor with vanilla extract, freshly grated ginger, or grated citrus peels. Or turn your fruit-filled beverages into luscious, slushy snacks to slowly savor while you work at your gardening chores. Just pour the contents into a glass bowl, cover, and freeze for about one hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened but not solid.
When making frozen fruit drinks:
- Scrub all fruits and vegetables (even if they're peeled or have a rind), since slicing can transfer germs to the flesh of the fruit).
- Spread diced fruit on a cookie sheet and freeze for two to four hours, then add to your beverage for a thicker drink.
- Opt for unsweetened frozen fruit to keep calories low.
- Use small ice cubes for blending.
- Shake all drinks before pouring, since some ingredients may separate.
Berry Banana Smoothie
2 cups low-fat milk or frozen vanilla low-fat yogurt
1 ripe banana, quartered
1 cup mixed fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, and/or blackberries) or unsweetened frozen mixed berries Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Serves 2.
2 cups cantaloupe, diced
1 cup honeydew melon, diced
1 cup seedless watermelon, diced
1/2 cup mango nectar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
8 mint leaves, chopped
4 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Serves 2.
2 cups papaya, peeled and chopped
1 cup mango, peeled and chopped
1 cup pear nectar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Place papaya and mango in a single layer on a jellyroll pan. Freeze at least 1 hour. Place frozen fruit, nectar, and lemon juice in a blender; process until smooth. Serves 2.
Barbara Pearlman is the author of Gardener's Fitness: Weeding Out the Aches and Pains, National Book Network.