As the temperature heats up and people begin taking their exercise routines outdoors, it’s imperative to remember to replenish and stay well-hydrated.
Drink first, exercise later. Staying hydrated before you hit the gym, the field or the pavement is just as important as staying hydrated while you’re exercising. Drinking prior to vigorous activity will help keep your heart rate and body temperature low and give your energy a boost. Once you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Cut out the sugar. Replace sugary sports drinks and caffeinated favorites with water. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and causes the body to lose water. With adult body weight comprised of up to 70 percent water, it is the single most vital component of the daily diet. Water assists with digestion and balances metabolism without the added sugar or calories!
Indulge frequently. It’s recommended that adults drink between 6 and 8 glasses of water every day. Drinking plenty of water assists in flushing out toxins and bacteria in the body that can cause disease, as well as helps the immune system.
Take a big gulp. Gulping fluids during exercise empties them from your body quicker than sipping them, reducing cramps and hydrating muscles faster. As an added bonus, water acts as a natural moisturizer to the skin, preventing it from drying out, helping to maintain its elasticity and giving it a general healthy glowing appearance.
KEY HYDRATION TERMS
Euhydration is simply the “normal” amount of liquid in our bodies to easily create the fluid balance necessary to meet our bodies’ needs. There is no exact “right” amount as it is very difficult to measure fluid levels in the body. Plus, each person’s needs are different. This optimal level of hydration occurs when you are consuming fluids in excess of your body’s needs, and in amounts that can properly be absorbed and excreted through normal body function.
Hyperhydration is when the body holds excess water. In most circumstances, our renal systems can easily handle the extra water through urination, and our systems return to normal levels within several hours. In extreme cases, a potentially fatal condition called Hyponatremia can come into play when far too much liquid is consumed over a short period of time (slow marathoners, for example, have been known to consume as much as 13 cups of water during a 4-hour run). To describe it simply, as we consume large amounts of water, our plasma sodium concentration decreases significantly, causing water to migrate into our cells before our renal systems can excrete it. Cells associated with nerves, especially those in the brain, are highly sensitive to this swelling, which can cause dizziness, confusion, brain damage, coma or even death.
Dehydration is a drop in blood volume and can be caused by the loss of two or more percent of one’s body weight due to sweating, according to various studies. When this occurs, the heart has to work harder to move blood through the bloodstream. It can be caused by drinking too little fluid during and after exercise, drinking only when thirsty, excessive sweating and exercising in hot weather. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps, dizziness and fatigue.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to dehydration and an excessive loss of water and salt through sweat. It occurs most often after long periods of heat exposure and, because the body is overwhelmed by heat, our sweat response stops working properly. The early symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, disorientation, fast and weak pulse, headache, paleness and cool moist skin, dizziness, muscle cramps, tiredness and fainting.
Heat stroke occurs when heat exhaustion is left untreated. It should be considered a medical emergency and be treated immediately. With heat stroke, core body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and the body’s cooling systems stop working. Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin, lack of sweating, a very fast pulse, confusion and perhaps seizures or coma. If untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.
By Kristin Wood