Ester Marsh column: Are you hydrating properly?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 23, 2022

It’s that time to talk about proper hydration. I have spoken to a few people lately who didn’t hydrate well enough — one at an outside pool and the other while doing yardwork — and both started to feel bad.

Sometimes when you are relaxing or working, you forget the time and in this heat it’s imperative to hydrate. Even if you have to set a timer or reminder to stop to take a drink, it’s a must to hydrate. Because lean tissue, muscles and organs consist of more than 70% water 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 (preferable water) you consume. So at 136 pounds, my consumption should be around 68 ounces a day. Since my throat cancer surgery, I crave water so that is one positive outcome from my surgery, of course besides removing all cancer! When your body does not get the appropriate intake of fluids, preferably water, 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 (ACSM)offers these  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 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 true weight loss will come.

Signs of dehydration and what to do:

• If you are thirsty, you are already 40 ounces behind. Drink cool noncarbonated, non-caffeinated fluids in intervals. Gulping it down at once will increase gastrointestinal distress.

• Dehydration with loss of energy and performance — drink sports drinks that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes

• 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.

Set your timer if you are like me and get busy and forget. Be aware how much you should take in per day, don’t get fooled when you are sunbathing and a nice breeze is keeping you “cool.” Watch the alcohol intake, it might quench your thirst but actually dehydrates the body. Have water readily available and near where you are. And if possible, get out of the sun and heat when you can.

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