With heat waves increasing in frequency, understanding the dangers of dehydration and properly hydrating your body is more important than ever for people. The National Climate Assessment estimates there will be 20 to 30 more days above 90 ° F by the middle of the century. This, combined with our existing daily workload and enjoyment of exercise, means that temperature increases put further strain on our already overworked body.
With that in mind, Muscle & Fitness spoke to hydration experts so we can all stay cool while continuing our journey to our health and fitness goals.
Most of us know that hydration is an important process. After all, our body consists of around 60% water, but not all of us have the ability to drink the right fluids in an organized manner.
The effects of dehydration
To understand why avoiding a state of dehydration is important, we just need to see the effects. There are myriad problems related to dehydration, including extreme thirst, drowsiness and migraines, fatigue, fast heartbeat, decreased skin elasticity, low blood pressure, vomiting, and many other undesirable symptoms. Simply put, we need regular lubrication to keep our engines running.
But my body will tell me when I'm thirsty, right?
"If you feel thirsty, it means you are already dehydrated," said James Mayo, co-founder of SOS Hydration and a retired military doctor who has been researching hydration for many years. “You always have to pre-hydrate. Stay ahead of your hydration and get more out of your day.
“Being thirsty can result in a 25 percent loss of cognitive and physical performance, especially on hot, humid, or even cold days when you exercise. On a normal day, we lose an average of two liters of water through things like breathing, sweating and going to the toilet. "
If you have an illness, your body may not be able to tell you when to drink fluids at the right time. Alcohol and medication can also affect your body's ability to signal that it needs more hydration. "If you know your day involves hard exercise and sweating a lot, it may be a good idea to keep a regular water intake schedule," said Shannon O & # 39; Grady Ph. D., chief operating officer at Gnarly Nutrition, who holds a PhD in Biology from the University of Utah. "This will help you start exercising hydrated, which will improve performance and reduce the overall risk of injury."
Recognize the signs of dehydration
Obvious signs of dehydration include feeling dizzy or light-headed. "A big part of building good drinking habits is spotting the early signs of dehydration," Mayo says. “It's easy to find out your fluid levels, and it's mostly based on the color of your urine. If your urine is pale yellow, you are hydrated. However, for more accurate measurements, you can weigh yourself without clothes before and after training. The difference in weight is the fluid lost that needs to be replaced. Remember, it's not just water that needs replacing; Electrolytes should be included. "
"Darker urine indicates dehydration," says O'Grady. “The sweat rate and electrolyte content of the sweat vary greatly from person to person and can be influenced by temperature, humidity, altitude, clothing, genetics and training status. A sweat test is an easy way to find out how much water you might need to replace at longer events.
What is a sweat test? It's an easy way to find out how much water you might need to replace for longer events. To do a sweat test on yourself, first weigh yourself (naked, of course) after urinating. Then exercise for about an hour and note the amount Liquid (all ounces count) that you can drink during this time. At the end of the lesson, wipe off excess sweat with a towel and calculate:
1) Calculate the pre-workout weight minus the post-workout weight. Convert this resulting weight into ounces.
2) Add all the ounces of liquid you used up to the above illustration. This will give you the number of fluid ounces your body needs per hour.
3) Divide this number by 3 so that you can consume at 20 minute intervals.
"Drink water regularly throughout the day and use thirst as an indicator," says O'Grady. The more you sweat from exercise or heat, the more important hydration and electrolyte exchange become. In these cases, a schedule for fluid intake and electrolyte replacement can help prevent dehydration. "
Do athletes need more hydration?
In a word, yes, says Mayo. “Athletes need more fluids, but that also applies to anyone who sweats a lot,” he says. "With this in mind, everyone has to hydrate with electrolytes in order to optimize their everyday life."
"Greater water loss through sweat increases the general fluid requirement, so active people need to pay particular attention to fluid intake both during and outside of training," says O’Grady. "I think it's really important to note that good hydration includes not just what you drink during exercise, but also that you drink consistently for the rest of the day."
Do I only need water for rehydration?
"Overhydration with just water can definitely be a problem with prolonged training or workouts," says O & # 39; Grady. “Because it dilutes our body's electrolytes and leads to a serious condition called hyponatremia. The longer the training and the more you sweat, the more important the electrolyte replacement becomes. "
The body needs important minerals to keep it running, including sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. "During longer (an hour or more) and more intensive training, in which the loss of sweat and thus the loss of electrolytes is high, the largest amounts of sodium and chloride are lost in the sweat and should therefore be the focus of electrolyte replacement," says O & # 39 ; Degree.
“Electrolyte replacement can be something that you need to experiment with a little. I always recommend starting with 250-300 mg of sodium per hour unless you know you're a salty sweater (e.g., if you see white streaks on your clothes after a workout) and therefore a higher intake must strive. "
We may not know, but we can lose significant amounts of water through sweat while sleeping, and we also lose significant amounts of water vapor through breathing. If we add a high temperature room to the equation, our fluid balance will be depleted before we even get out of bed. By understanding the signs of dehydration, planning the right water and electrolyte intake, and knowing that intense work, exercise, and ambient temperature can increase our mineral needs, we can be better prepared for the stresses of the day.