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Ester Marsh: Proper hydration is important for good health

Do you hydrate enough?

Here’s why hydration is important, not only when it is as hot as it is now but throughout the year.

Lean tissue, muscles and organs consist of more than 70 percent water. It helps carry important nutrients to our cells and carries the waste products out of our cells. Water also helps regulate body temperature and lubricates the joints.

In other words, your body has to have fluids to function well and stay alive.

An easy way to look at it is to take half of your body weight as the number of ounces of fluid (preferably water) you consume.

You can also Google “hydration calculator,” which will ask questions such as how long you exercise and whether you drink alcoholic beverages, and it will give you the recommended ounces for adequate hydration.

Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount taken in. You lose water by sweating (to cool the body) and simply by breathing (you can really see it during cold weather).

Here are the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations to meet your fluid needs while exercising:

• Drink as much as needed to match sweat loss. About 20 ounces of fluids should be consumed for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.

• Do not rely on your thirst as a reason to drink. The thirst sensation will only occur after 1 to 2 liters of fluids is lost.

• Sweat rates are often 1 to 2 liters per hour, which makes it difficult to consume enough fluids to match the losses. You should learn to drink water on a fixed time interval.

• Fluids should be cool and readily available.

Most people are all about weight loss. “Great! I lost 2 pounds during my workout!” That means you need to consume 40 ounces of fluids. Water weight loss is not true weight loss. By exercising, eating correctly and hydrating as needed, the true (fat) weight loss will come.

Signs of dehydration and what to do:

• Of course, being thirsty, which means you are already 40 ounces behind. Drink cool, noncarbonated, noncaffeinated fluids in intervals. Gulping it down at once will increase gastrointestinal distress.

• Dehydration with loss of energy and performance: Drink carbohydrate- and electrolyte-containing sports drinks.

• Dehydration with muscle cramps: Immediately stop exercising and massage the cramping muscle while consuming a sports drink that contains sodium, which may relieve the cramp.

The majority of fluids to keep your body hydrated should come from plain water. Unless you exercise excessively for over an hour and sweat heavily, you do not need many sports drinks (or perhaps any at all).

Staying hydrated during exercise has multiple benefits:

• Less pronounced increase in heart rate.

• Less pronounced increase in core body temperature.

• Improved cardiac stroke volume and cardiac output (heart is pumping stronger and in greater volumes with one beat).

• Improve skin blood flow, enabling better sweat rates and improved cooling.

• Maintenance of better blood volume.

• A reduction of net muscle glycogen usage, which improves endurance.

One of my weaknesses is not drinking enough water. I have found I do much better with sparkling waters. There is nothing else but “bubbles” in there, but at least I drink enough.

Find out what works for you.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director for the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.

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