dehydration

Staying hydrated is important year-round, but with the warmer weather upon us, its importance increases.

First, it is important not to start at a deficit.  When many people think about exercising in hot weather, they think about having water or a sports drink while they exercise.  Yes, that is important, but it’s not the whole story.

Water needs to be drunk on a consistent basis so that your body is hydrated when you start to exercise.  If you are drinking enough, your urine should be light in color.  I notice that my lips will start to dry out well before any other signs appear.

There is disagreement about how much water to drink, with some sources citing water in foods that we eat as “counting” towards total water intake.  In my opinion, I’d rather drink a little too much than a little too little.  (Yes, it is possible to cause harm to your body by drinking too much water, but that’s a lot of water.)

I personally drink about 75 ounces of water each day by the end of my work day.  I have two large (not plastic) water bottles that I take with me to work that account for 67 of that, plus whatever I drink with breakfast (typically eight to ten ounces or so).  If that is all that I drink in one day, by the following morning, I feel pretty dried out and my urine will start to be darker.

Fortunately, I will drink more with dinner (between 12 and 36 ounces, depending almost entirely on how many times I’m willing to get up and refill my glass), I’ll drink another 12 to 24 ounces in the evening, and I’ll drink when I work out.

Physiologically, symptoms of dehydration begin to appear when you’ve lost only about 2% of your body’s normal water volume.  (Roughly 15% is fatal, just to give you a barometer.)  Aside from those already mentioned, symptoms can include headaches, dizziness when standing, unexplained fatigue, muscle cramps, irritability, and thirst (duh!).

Side effects of exercising with mild dehydration include low endurance, high heart rate, flushed face, and a loss of performance up to 30%.  If nothing else, don’t you want your efforts to be maximal?

Make sure you drink your water.

If you are in your 50s or older, make an effort to drink even when you do not feel thirsty; the body’s thirst sensor starts to decrease function. Dehydration is a significant problem in older people, simply because they don’t notice that they are thirsty.

While it is possible to knock your water-to-salt ratio out of balance by drinking too much water, most Americans consume more than enough salt in their daily diet to render this concern unnecessary.

As for needing a sport drink while exercising, I touched on that here.

Are you drinking enough?

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