By David Crocker
Diet and Exercise
Even with temperatures soaring, folks are still getting outside, working and exercising. With that comes dehydration. The definition of dehydration is “a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body”. Here are a few reasons water in so crucial to the individuals.
- It protests the body’s tissues, spinal cord and joints.
Water lubricates these tissues to help you enjoy physical activity while lessening discomfort caused by conditions like arthritis.
- It regulates body temperature.
Your body loses water through sweat during physical activity, and while in hot environments. Don’t think you sweat much? Remember, if your skin is damp, your body has lost pints of water, if your skin is wet you’ve lost quarts. Do not think you sweat at all? Don’t be so sure. Perspiration can evaporate from the surface of the skin, without the skin ever feeling damp. Also, you lose plenty of water through respiration (breathing).
- Water maximizes physical performance.
Hydration affects strength, power, and endurance. Remember, muscle is composed of 70-75% water, so if you’re dehydrated it’s like your muscles are running on flat tires. Athletes can perspire up to 6 to 10 percent of body weight during physical activity. Perhaps you don’t run, workout or play a sport. Maybe you walk, or do outside chores, like mowing the lawn, painting, moving patio furniture or weeding the garden…you’re physically still considered an athlete.
- Aids digestion.
Contrary to some notions, drinking water before, during and after meals helps your body break down foods you eat. This helps you digest foodstuffs more effectively.
- Water assists nutrient absorption.
In addition to facilitating food breakdown, water helps dissolve vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for optimum absorption.
- Improves blood oxygen circulation.
Water carries nutrients and oxygen to every cell in the body. Also, in order to oxygenate and expel carbon dioxide, the lungs need to be hydrated.
- Helps combat illness.
Drinking enough water can help avert certain medical conditions such as kidney stones, exercise induced asthma, urinary tract infection and hypertension.
- Relieves constipation.
Consuming fiber isn’t the only method to prevent constipation. It is essential to maintain proper water levels for proper bowel movements.
- Helps you lose weight.
Water is 100% calorie free, helps you burn more calories, and can be a rather effective appetite suppressant.
So why is drinking water so important during exercise and physical exertion? Hydrating is necessary to replace fluids lost through sweat. This reduces risks of heat stress and maintains proper muscle function. Studies show that loss of fluid equal to 2% of body mass is enough to cause a detectable decrease in performance, and dehydration of more than a 2% loss of body weight increases the risk of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Always begin exercise well hydrated. If you wait until you’re dehydrated, you’ve got down time. It’s best to come up with a plan for drinking based on your own perspiration rates. Immediately following exercise or physical exertion, monitor body weight change to estimate your fluid deficit. Remember, after exercising, you will continue to lose fluids through perspiration, and urine loss, so replace 125-150% of this fluid deficit.
It is possible to drink too much water at one time. If you were to drink 6 liters (approximately 1 ½ gallons) of water in one sitting it would kill you by diluting blood salts (hyponatremia), and making your brain swell.
What’s the best fluid to drink? Plain water is an effective drink for fluid replacement; however, some prefer sports drinks, which contain amounts of carbohydrates (sugars) and electrolytes, added to enhance performance in high intensity, endurance sports and physical exertion. I do recommend the use of sports drinks, because drinking plain water can flush out electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium. These minerals carry electrical charges to make muscles work properly and inadequate levels can cause muscle cramping, and nerve pain. Fluid absorption rate is dependent on two factors:
- The pace at which fluid is absorbed through the walls of the small intestine.
- The rapidity at which fluid is emptied from the stomach.
Both of these factors are controlled in terms of liquid composition, by carbohydrate (sugar) and electrolyte concentrations. In other words, the higher the carbohydrate content of a beverage, the slower its absorption rate. However, plain water can pass through the body too quickly. Your choice of hydration really depends on whether your objective is to merely hydrate, or to replenish energy by replacing sugar and electrolyte stores. One alternative is to dilute sport drinks with water.
Questions? Email David at firstname.lastname@example.org.