Warmer weather is upon us, as well and fun opportunities for taking our workouts outside. Along with higher temperatures is an increased risk of dehydration. We all know that we should stay hydrated, but opinions on when, what, and how to do that can vary.
Any sustained exercise results in greater fluid loss as we sweat more. Exercise in the heat increases this dramatically. As we sweat, we lose important electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride. Loss of fluids and these electrolytes can cause a drop in blood glucose as well as muscle glycogen. When that happens, not only is performance reduced, but as our bodies become dehydrated, the risk of muscle cramps, fatigue, electrolyte deficits, and even hypernatremia (elevated sodium levels in the blood) can be life threatening.
Perhaps the most important time to consume fluids is two hours prior to a workout. When you begin your workout well hydrated, you reduce the risk of getting dehydrated so quickly. Consume 20 fl. oz. of liquids 2 hours prior to starting any strenuous exercise.
During exercise, if your body loses 1% of body weight in fluids, cardiovascular strain occurs and muscle performance is affected. Consuming fluids frequently (3-8 fl oz. every 15 minutes) will prevent dehydration. Drinking water is sufficient if you are exercising less than an hour, but additional carbohydrates and electrolytes must be consumed to help maintain the proper levels of blood glucose when pushing yourself over an hour of strenuous exercise. Sports drinks are not the only way to go; Coconut water, Green tea, low fat Chocolate milk, fruit juices, small portions of bananas or dried fruits and nuts can all help replenish your system.
If you do go for sports drinks read your labels carefully. There is not enough space in this post to look detail at sports drinks options, so suffice it to say that there is a lot of junk packaged as sport/energy drinks and we encourage you to read labels and educate yourself. This article may help and begins to explore healthy options to replenish your body’s needs during and after a workout.
Until then, happy workouts and stay hydrated!