Just like a car, your body is a machine
that needs fluids to operate efficiently. You've seen it before—a
frustrated driver on the side of the road trying to fan his overheated
car. But the car's not going anywhere and neither is he.
In fact, your body is more than 60%
water, and even light exercise can deplete that percentage. No
fluid means no function, and suddenly it's you stranded on the
trail with an overtaxed body. This loss of fluid is called dehydration.
And hydrating, or adding fluids, is the key to keeping it from
happening to you.
The Benefits of Staying Well
· More energy, power and endurance.
· Stay cooler, feel better.
· Go farther, faster.
· Work harder, burn more calories.
· Decrease your recovery time so you can go out and do
it all again.
How Do I Know When I'm Dehydrated?
Once you've reached the point of feeling thirsty, dehydration
has already begun. If left this way, the body will continue to
provide signs that it is running low. Early signs include a dry
mouth and a decrease in energy. These can quickly lead to cramps,
headaches and nausea.
Tell Me the Cure!
The cure to all this unpleasantness is as close as a glass of
water. Experts recommend the following to make sure you are well
hydrated while exercising:
· Drink early — about 2 hours before exercise.
· Drink often — continually sip fluids rather than
gulp them down infrequently.
· Add sport/energy drinks—they help restore carbohydrates
· Drink after — post-exercise hydration gets your
fluid levels back to normal and
can help with recovery.
· Use the "copious and clear" rule—this
refers to urine volume and color when you're
drinking enough fluids. Darker color and less volume
is an indication that you're
Finally, make sure your fluids are
close at hand. When you're 2 miles into a hike, your water bottle
is not much good to you sitting in your car.
Is it Possible to Overhydrate?
Too much of a good thing, even water, can have negative side effects.
The flip-side to dehydration is over-hydration, or hyponatremia.
This is a fairly rare condition which mainly affects endurance
athletes such as marathon runners and triathletes. In hyponatremia,
sodium levels in the blood become so diluted that cell function
becomes impaired. In extreme cases, hyponatremia may cause coma
and even death.
The Solution to This Dilution?
· Try not to drink more than you sweat.
· Keep your salt levels balanced by drinking a sports drink
with electrolytes instead of
plain water and/or eating a salty snack such as pretzels.
· Drink while you're exercising and you'll be less likely
to drink too much.
· You can test your water intake by weighing yourself before
and after intense physical
activity. You should weigh about the same. If you
have gained weight, you are
probably drinking too much water.