Dangers of Dehydration (Part 2)


On Monday, in Part 1, we went through some of the signs and symptoms, in addition to the effects of dehydration.   Today, we are talking about some of the factors that can have  an affect on your hydration level, the guidelines for staying properly hydrated and we will  take a look at sports drinks and  water to see which is best for re-hydration.   Let’s get started!

Guidelines for Staying Hydrated

After reading all the nasty symptoms of being dehydrated in part 1, I would guess that you would want to stay hydrated in the first place. So how do you prevent yourself from getting dehydrated? The American College of Sports Medicine has recommended that proper hydration for exercise should consist of  2 cups of water 2 to 3 hours before  exercise, 1 cup of water for every 15 minutes  during exercise (if the event  will last longer than 30 minutes) and  2 1/2 to 3 cups of water (for every pound lost during activity) within 4 to 6 hours after exercise.  Have you ever been working out at the gym and watched the big muscle bound  dudes weighing themselves before and after every workout? Want to know why they are doing it? Weighing in before and after a workout helps you keep track of how much  water you lose through  sweating. Subtracting your end number from your beginning number lets you know how much fluid you lost during your workout. Now, just take that number and  times it by 2 1/2 to 3 and Voila! You know how much fluid to replenish  within 4 to 6 hours after your workout so that you avoid dehydration.

Factors  that Affect  Hydration Level

When exercising, some things to keep in mind that will affect your hydration level are:

  • Intensity level of your exercise
  • Temperature of your environment
  • Humidity of your environment
  • Type of clothing you are wearing

The middle two are not usually a factor for those who work out in a gym or recreational facility that has some form of climate control, such as air conditioning,  but if you’re the type who likes to  run or bike outdoors, they most definitely are. In an environment where heat alone is the issue,  especially when the temperature rises above 95 degrees, almost all of your body heat is lost through the evaporation of sweat from your skin, which helps you stay cool. When you add in humidity as factor, especially as the rate reaches 75% and above, the evaporation process slows dramatically. Before you know it, sweating is no longer an efficient way to cool your body which leads to fatigue and  therefore, increased work for your heart which makes prolonged exertion very difficult. Remember how quickly our 130 pound woman reached dehydration in part 1? Add in  hot and/or humid weather and dehydration is sure to come on even faster.

Sports Drinks vs. Water

There’s a lot of debate on this topic. The people who make money off of bottled water say water is the best option, yet the people who make money off of sports drinks claim they have  the better option. Billions of dollars in advertising is spent each year trying to entice you and get you to buy one, the other or both.

Really it boils down to the intensity and duration of your specific exercise or activity. If your event will not last longer than 60 minutes and total water loss will be less than 5 or 6 pounds, the biggest concern is simply replacing the water lost through sweating to increase your blood volume and  allow for efficient cooling of the body, along with some other cellular processes.

On the other hand, if your activity will last longer than 60 minutes, especially if it will be outside in hot weather, the importance of replacing electrolytes, sodium  and carbohydrates increases. The electrolytes contained in the sports drinks aid in  maintaining blood volume, enhance the  body’s ability to absorb the water and also stimulates the athlete’s sense of thirst. Sports drinks also contain glucose that can be of great help to muscles that are depleted of glycogen, which can aid in performance. Another advantage of sports drinks  is the option of flavors  that plain water doesn’t have. Some people find flavor helpful (and others find necessary)  to keep hydration levels where they should be.

And there you have it. Which one is better? Depends on what you’re going to be doing and how long you are going to be doing it. You have all the information so that you can make the choice that  is right for you.

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