Healthy Hydration? No Sweat!

McDowell
Lisa McDowell is a Registered Dietitian at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. Lisa traveled to the London Olympics to oversee nutritional health for U.S. athletes.

Water is one of the most important components of great health. Water regulates body temperature and keeps you cool in the hot weather. When we exercise, our body temperature increases and we lose water in the form of sweat. Our sweat helps to lower our body temperature so we don’t overheat. We don’t just lose water when we sweat, we also lose key essential electrolytes including sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

To find the correct fluid balance, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests the following:

1)      Check your weight:  Be sure to weigh yourself before and after exercise to check the amount of fluid loss. For every pound lost, you will need 16 – 24 oz of water to replenish your sweat loss. Senior citizens tend to be less sensitive to thirst sensations than younger adults. Athletic seniors need to be mindful of drinking fluids regularly.

2)      Monitor urine color: Simplest way to tell if you are adequately replacing sweat loss is to check the color and quantity of your urine. Your goal is to have pale yellow urine which means you are well hydrated. Dark urine means you need more fluid and very pale or clear urine could indicate you are overhydrated, which is also dangerous.

3)      Gauge how you feel: Chronically tired, headachy or lethargic? You may be chronically dehydrated and simply drinking more fluids may improve how you feel.

4)      Prevent muscle cramps:. These are usually associated with dehydration, electrolyte deficits and muscle fatigue. Take extra care to drink plenty of sodium-containing fluids or eat a salty snack while exercising or after exercise if you are sweating in the hot sun.

For athletes exercising more than 2 hours, it is recommended to consume an electrolyte replacement snack. Simple and convenient sources such as energy gels, sport beans, blocks, bars, and drinks may be needed. You can also try eating real-food snacks during exercise such as pretzels, bananas, and fruit chews. You should never experiment on race day. Only use electrolyte replacements and caffeine the day of the race if you have previously used during training.

 

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