Importance Of Proper Hydration
One very important area sometimes overlooked and often misunderstood in sport and exercise is proper and adequate hydration. Failure to drink enough fluids can lead to early fatigue, overheating and thickening of the blood. Too much water consumption can cause abdominal distress, interfere with oxygen transfer and in severe cases brain swelling. In warmer climates increased fluid intake is essential to the tune of about 4- 6oz every 20 minutes. Add humidity and the requirement goes up.
Length of activity, intensity and ambient temperature all must be taken into consideration. Add to this your size (larger people are more susceptible to overheating), sweat rate, health status and clothing.
Preparation is key.
1. For strenuous activities over 30 minutes in duration start by consuming 12 – 16 ounces of either water or a hydration formula over the course of the hour before. For longer events 1 – 2 hours hydration should begin the day before. One way to increase water storage is to cut carbohydrates by 20% for 2 days then the day before your event consume 20 – 30% more carbohydrates than usual. The low carbohydrate days will lead to an over compensation after the high carbohydrate day and lead to extra glycogen storage. For every gram of glycogen your body stores, it stores 3 grams of water. This is a great way to add significant ounces of additional hydration.
2. Training should include gradually acclimating to the environment your event takes place in. For instance, if your activity takes place in a hot environment gradually increase your temperature tolerance over days or weeks by training later and later into the hottest part of the day.
3. On the day of your event wear layered items so you can strip away unneeded insulation. Wear light colors and remember that a wet shirt is better at cooling than no shirt at all. It’s all about controlling evaporation.
4. Drink both plain water and a rehydration formula (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.). 4 - 6 ounces every 15 - 20 minutes is ideal. If your event is marathon or century length in heat or humidity standard rehydration formulas may not have enough salt to replace that which is lost. Switch to a higher salt formula. In extreme events or cases salt tablets or even a salt packet mixed into your drink may be necessary to prevent hyponatremia (water intoxication) which could lead to brain swelling in the most extreme cases.
5. Post activity drink fluids to satisfy cravings but don’t over drink. If a scale is handy weigh yourself before and after your activity. Drink 20 -24 ounces of a sports drink for every pound of weight lost.
6. A great all natural rehydration drink is coconut water. Coconut water comes from young coconuts before the nut water becomes milk. It has about 44 calories per 8oz, no fat, and 6 electrolytes. Most sport drinks pale in comparison.