Ester Marsh column: Are you hydrating properly?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 20, 2021

Are you hydrating properly during this hot weather?

Hydration is very important any time of the year, but with summer right around the corner it’s even more important! Lean tissue, muscles and organs consist of more than 70% water. Water helps to carry important nutrients to our cells and carries the waste products out of our cells. It also helps regulate our bodies’ temperature, and even lubricates the joints. In other words, your body has to have fluids to function well and stay alive. Your urine gives you great feedback — the darker the color, the more dehydrated you are. You can check out urine color charts to see what color urine means what. These are possible meanings: Clear: good hydration, over hydration or mild dehydration; pale yellow: good hydration or mild dehydration; bright yellow: mild or moderate dehydration or taking vitamin supplements; orange/amber: moderate to severe dehydration; tea-colored: severe dehydration.

The best way not to get dehydrated is to prevent it. An “easy” way to make sure you are hydrated is to take half of your body weight, and those are the ounces of fluid (preferably water) you consume. So at 140 pounds, my consumption should be around 70 ounces a day. When your body does not get the appropriate intake of fluids, you get dehydrated.

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).

The American College of Sports Medicine recommendations to meet your fluid needs while exercising:

• Drink as much as needed to match sweat loss. Approximately 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 already are lost. So you are already dehydrated.

• Sweat rates are often 1-2 liters per hour which is 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 two 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, true weight loss will come.

Signs of dehydration and what to do:

• If you feel thirsty, you are already 40 ounces behind. Drink cool non-carbonated, non-caffeinated 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, or any, sports drinks.

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.

Personally, I do a lot better with carbonated water (no calories or sodium), since I am pretty bad in staying hydrated and it’s better than not drinking at all. So see what works for you and make sure you get your liquids in!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley YMCA.