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Fluid Facts: Ready, Set, Hydrate!

Muscle cramps, heat illness and fatigue are all signs of dehydration. Learn how to rehydrate and stay in the game.

Learn the signs of dehydration
Jan 27 2016

Did you know that 60 to 70 percent of the human body is made up of water? And that losing as little as 2 percent of your body weight via sweat can undermine your athletic performance? 

We’ve all seen it during major sporting events—athletes dropping out with muscle cramps or fatigue. Dehydration is serious and can lead to a drop in blood volume, which causes muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue and heat illness.

 

“When it comes to hydration, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Be sensible. Know your needs," advises Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, chief scientific officer with Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition.

 

Many athletes focus on nutrition to energize their workouts and help muscles recover, but in the process overlook fluids. Water is the critical foundation upon which all other nutrients perform. However, how and how much to hydrate varies by person and training conditions. You have to be aware of your own unique needs and environment.
 

Hydration Basics

Hydration levels are affected by temperature, intensity of exercise, humidity and type of clothing. The impact of a long run on a cool morning is much different than the impact of one in the full sun on a hot summer afternoon. Intense exercise in hot and humid conditions increases the amount of fluid your body loses and also increases the amount you need to drink to stay hydrated.

“When it comes to hydration, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” explains Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, chief scientific officer with Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition business. “Be sensible. Know your needs. There are risks with both dehydration and overhydration, also called hyponatremia. When deciding how much your need to drink, take into consideration your climate, your level of acclimation to those conditions and overall sweat loss.”
 

Electrolytes are Essential

When we sweat to stay cool, we lose water and electrolytes (minerals that include sodium and chloride). Of these electrolytes, sodium is the most important. Besides replacing the losses, sodium plays an important role by:

  • Stimulating thirst to improve fluid intake

  • Improving fluid absorption when glucose, or sugar, is also present

  • Promoting rehydration
     

When exercising in very hot conditions and/or at high intensities for 60 minutes or longer, you might consider a sports drink, which helps replenish stores of sodium and other electrolytes.
 

Take these tips into consideration to get the water you need to make it through your workout:

  • Drink All Day: When you first wake up, drink a glass of water to replenish fluids lost during the night. Your goal should be to stay hydrated throughout the day. Another good indication is to evaluate the color of your urine. If it’s light yellow, your hydration is good. If it’s darker yellow or brown, that’s a signal that you need to increase your fluids.

  • Hydrate Your Workout: Aim to drink eight to 10 fluid ounces 15 minutes before you start your workout and eight to 10 fluid ounces every 15 minutes throughout your exercise routine. If you’re concerned about fluid loss from a high-intensity workout, weigh yourself both before and immediately after you’re done working out. For every pound lost during your workout, you should drink 24 fluid ounces. Again, your needs may vary based on heat and sweat rates. 
     

“Remember not to overlook the fluids you are getting from other sources,” says Hertzler. “Fruit and veggies are 80 to 90 percent water and provide helpful hydration. Tea, coffee and other caffeinated beverages also count just as juice and milk do.”
 

  • Know Your Individual Needs: How much you should drink and what you use to rehydrate your body depends on how and where you exercise. Working out in high altitudes and in hot weather can substantially increase your need for fluids.


  • Hydrate for Strength Recovery: If you are strength training, you can most likely stay hydrated with just water. However, replenishing your fluids with a drink that includes some protein, like low-fat milk or a shake, can help your muscles recover after a hard workout.


  • Fuel Your Endurance Exercise: Endurance athletes like runners and triathletes may want to use sports drinks during their workouts, especially in hot or dry conditions, in order to replace lost electrolytes. Water is sufficient for activities that are less than one hour in length.

 

Ensure proper hydration during exercise