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It's Hot! Staying Hydrated
July 14, 2011 - Dalia Jakubauskas
If you live in Florida you know that we only have 2 seasons –hot and hotter. Right now the state is well into the oppressively hot time Floridians call summer. For active types, or even for those who want to spend more that 5 minutes outside, these months pose special health risks. Staying hydrated and replacing lost fluids is of paramount importance, whether exercising outdoors, working in the yard or simply sunning at the beach. How much fluid to replace and what to drink depends on the individual and the type of activity. Athletes engaging in intense activities like marathons or long bike rides, have different hydration needs than say, a sunbather or casual walker. For most people engaging in moderate outdoor activities, drinking plain water is the best way to stay hydrated. Sports drinks, like Gatorade, are generally recommended only for those exercising at a high intensity and for a long duration. Sports drinks contain sodium that enables the body to retain fluids that are lost through sweat. They also contain carbohydrates (mostly sugars) intended to provide athletes the extra energy and calories they need to get through intense workouts. But for the average person not running a marathon or biking 100 miles, these extra calories can lead to weight gain. The National Athletic Training Association recommends that sports drinks have below 8% carbohydrate content. Above that actually impedes the absorption of fluids emptying from the stomach into the intestines. This is why sugary drinks and sodas are not the best way to rehydrate and may even have the opposite affect. Caffeinated drinks can also cause dehydration as caffeine acts as a mild diuretic, which is not such a big deal if you are walking on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym, but can became a serious situation if you are jogging outdoors in 90-degree heat. So for most of us, drinking mostly water throughout the day along with other beverages like juice, are what the experts recommend. How much and when to drink is another challenge in itself. The following are some easy to follow guidelines from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of The National Academy of Sciences, for staying hydrated during normal activities. • Men should consume about 13 cups of total fluids per day while women should drink around 9. Both men and women should also eat plenty of fruits and green, leafy vegetables, which contain high amounts of water. • Drink even before you feel thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Another indicator that you are dehydrated is the color of your urine (icky, I know). Dark means you’re dehydrated. Clear and light means you’re not. • For immediate rehydration, drink cool, not cold water, as cool water is more readily absorbed. For those who like exercising outdoors, The Texas Heart Institute has come up with the following guidelines to prevent dehydration and heat stroke.
For workouts of less than 1-1/2 hours: • Drink around 16 ounces of water 1 to 2 hours before exercising and then again 15 minutes before a workout. • Drink about 5 ounces of water every 10 minutes during exercise. • Drink 16 ounces of water or sport drink just after exercise. For longer and more intense workouts, the institute recommends following the same guidelines above plus suggests having about 34 ounces of water on hand per hour of exercise. A sport drink can be substituted for water every 1-1/2 hour or 2 hours during long periods of physical activity or if the weather is hot. If you do choose to exercise outdoors in the heat, look for these symptoms of heat stroke: weakness, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting or rapid heartbeat. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop what you’re doing and get out of the heat. Drink water and wet or fan your skin. If the symptoms persist and you don’t feel any better call your doctor. If you feel faint or dizzy or have a temperature of 102 degrees or higher, call 911 or get immediate medical help. These symptoms indicate heat stroke, which can cause permanent physical damage and even death. So, don’t let the heat keep you from the outdoors. But, exercise smart, stay hydrated and stay well.
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