Whether you’re a serious athlete or a recreational exerciser, it’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms.
Proper hydration is one of the most important aspects of healthy physical activity. Drinking the right amount of fluids before, during and after physical activity is vital to providing your body the fluids it needs to perform properly. Sports dietitians assist athletes by developing individualized hydration plans that enhance performance in training and competition while minimizing risks for dehydration, over-hydration and heat illness and injury.
The overall goal is to minimize dehydration without over-drinking. Adequate hydration varies among individuals.
Practical ways to monitor hydration are:
· Urine color. The color of the first morning’s urine void after awakening is an overall indicator of hydration status. Straw or lemonade colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration. Dark colored urine, the color of apple juice, indicates dehydration. Dark urine is often produced soon after consuming vitamin supplements.
· Sweat loss. Change in body weight before and after exercise is used to estimate sweat loss. Since an athlete’s sweat loss during exercise is an indicator of hydration status, athletes are advised to follow customized fluid replacement plans that consider thirst, urine color, fluid intake, sweat loss and body weight changes that occur during exercise.
Dehydration can occur in virtually every physical activity scenario. It doesn’t have to be hot. You don’t have to have visible perspiration. You can become dehydrated in the water, at a pool or lake, or skiing on a winter day.
Dehydration results when athletes fail to adequately replace fluid lost through sweating. Since dehydration that exceeds 2 percent body weight loss harms exercise performance, athletes are advised to begin exercise well hydrated, minimize dehydration during exercise and replace fluid losses after exercise.
Electrolytes: What are they and why do they matter?
The main electrolytes in the human body are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and bicarbonate. Sodium is the main electrolyte found in extracellular fluid and is involved in fluid balance and blood pressure control. These ions help regulate blood pH and are critical for nerve and muscle function.
Both muscle tissue and neurons are considered electric tissues of the body. Muscles and neurons are activated by electrolyte shifts between fluid compartments. A muscle contraction needs calcium, sodium and potassium to be present. An imbalance in these electrolytes can lead to either weak muscle contractions, or muscles that contract too severely (cramp).
Be alert for conditions that increase your fluid loss through sweat.
· Air Temperature: The higher the temperature, the greater your sweat losses.
· Intensity: The harder you work out, the more you perspire.
· Body Size and Gender: Larger people sweat more. Men generally sweat more than women.
· Duration: The longer the workout, the more fluid loss.
· Fitness: Well-trained athletes perspire more than less fit people. Why? Athletes cool their bodies through sweat more efficiently than most people because their bodies are used to the extra stress. Thus, fluid needs are higher for highly trained athletes than for less fit individuals.
What are the signs of dehydration?
Dehydration happens when you lose more fluid than you drink. When your body doesn’t have enough water, it can’t work properly. Dehydration can range from mild to severe.
Symptoms of dehydration can include the following:
Dizziness or lightheaded feeling
Nausea or vomiting
Lack of sweating
Hard, fast heartbeat
Good old H2O is critical for rehydrating when the body experiences fluid loss, such as when we sweat. Even though many gyms like to keep pricey sports drinks and protein shakes stocked on their shelves, most of the time, water will do the trick just fine.
2. Sip on sports drinks and coconut water.
When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, which are minerals found in the blood that help to regulate (among other things) the amount of water in the body. Research suggests and sports drinks, such as Powerade and Gatorade, can help prolong exercise and rehydrate our bodies because they contain electrolytes, which plain old water does not. While an ordinary workout may not require electrolyte-replenishing, those participating in longer and more intense periods of exertion, such as running a marathon or going through a particularly intense workout, will benefit from a good dose of electrolytes mid-workout.
3. Weigh yourself.
Hop on the scale before and after exercise. For each pound lost during activity, drink an additional 16 ounces of fluid. If your body weight change is three percent or more, you may be experiencing significant to serious dehydration. Losing a few pounds of body weight after exercise can put strain on the body and result in uncomfortable side effects like muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue.