Nourished Living by Dietician Kelly Hamlin MA, RD, CDN

Hydration important during any type of physical activity

It’s so nice to see the kids back out there playing soccer, and seeing all the people out for their morning power walks when I’m driving to work in the morning.

However, one thing I don’t see is water bottles. I’m afraid people think that because summer is over they don’t have to stay as hydrated.

Staying hydrated is essential for everyone, but even more so for athletes or anyone participating in any type of physical activity.

Water is the most important nutrient for life and has many important functions including regulating temperature, lubricating joints and transporting nutrients and waste throughout the body.

Staying hydrated is particularly important during exercise.

The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kind of fluids.

Studies have found that athletes who lose as little as two percent of their body weight through sweating has a drop in blood volume which causes the heart to work harder to circulate blood.

A drop in blood volume may also lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue and heat illnesses.

Because there is wide variability in sweat rates loss and hydration levels of individuals, it is nearly impossible to provide specific recommendations or guidelines about the type or amount of fluids athletes should consume.

Two simple methods of estimating adequate hydration are:

1) Monitoring urine volume output and color. A large amount of light colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated.

2) Weigh yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost is likely from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses. Any weight gain could mean you are drinking more than you need.

Athletes can lose water due to high altitude, temperature, sweating, and exercise duration and intensity.

What about sports drinks? Sports drinks can be helpful to athletes who are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more.

Fluids supplying 60 to 100 calories per 8 ounces helps to supply the needed calories required for continuous performance.

It’s really not necessary to replace losses of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes during exercise since you’re unlikely to deplete your body’s stores of these minerals during normal training.

If, however, you find yourself exercising in extreme conditions over 3 or 5 hours (a marathon, Ironman or ultramarathon, for example) you may likely want to add a complex sports drink with electrolytes.

While specific fluid recommendations aren’t possible due to individual variability, most athletes can use the following guidelines as a starting point and modify their fluid needs accordingly.

For hydration before exercise, drink about 15 to 20 fluid ounces, 2 to 3 hours before exercise. Drink 8 to 10 ounces, 10 to 15 minutes before exercise.

For proper hydration during exercise, drink 8 to 10 fluid ounces every 10 to 15 minutes during exercise.

If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8 to 10 fluid ounces of a sports drink (with no more than 8% carbohydrate) every 15 to 30 minutes.

To keep yourself hydrated following exercise, weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses.

Drink 20 to 24 fluid ounces of water for every pound lost.

So, all you athletes and weekend warriors, keep this in mind. It may be annoying to carry a water bottle while you’re walking, but it is in your body’s best interest.

And the same goes for you winter athletes.

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