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Surviving July: Tips to ensure you stay hydrated

July 20th, 2015

I’m a weather person.  I have multiple weather apps on my iPhone and find myself checking the weekly and hourly forecasts in addition to the Doppler radar at regular intervals throughout the day.  Being July, most days tend to look something like this.

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There’s no denying it, we are in the beef of summer and here in the Florida Panhandle it is hot.  Not only is it hot, the humidity on most days resembles that of a steam room.  Even at the earliest hour you’ll rarely find temperatures that dip as low as the mid 70s and a walk down the driveway leaves you dripping and contemplating whether the smell of your shirt is still acceptable.

On top of this, the heat makes getting out for your daily run a little harder.  Heat like this can be quite daunting and discouraging as you find your normal easy run pace seems to be a lot harder than it was two months ago.  It’s not only harder mentally to get through a run in this weather but it’s also harder on your body. At this time of year, we not only have to think ahead about wearing extra deodorant but also staying on top of hydration.

When we start exercising, our core body temperature begins to increase.  In order for the body to maintain a stable core temperature and prevent the body from overheating, this heat must be released.  By shunting blood flow to the skin, heat can be released through movement of fluid from the bloodstream to the surface of the skin in the form of sweat.  When this fluid evaporates, it has a cooling effect on the body.  Overtime, the loss of fluid from the bloodstream causes the blood to lose volume and become more viscous.  This means that the heart has to work harder to ensure blood is being pumped adequately to the working muscles to deliver oxygen.  In order to prevent overworking of the heart, consumption of fluid is necessary to prevent the volume of blood from declining significantly.

Hence why hydration is important, especially in the level of heat and humidity (which makes evaporation of liquids that much more difficult) we experience here in the Panhandle.  All this being said, here’s the catch with hydration, it’s very much differentiated by the individual.  Different people have different fluid absorption rates and there are multiple factors that can affect this even within one individual.  So moral of the story is, know your body and make a plan to stay on top of your fluid consumption.  Here are a few guidelines to help you in determining your hydration plan.

1.  Use you body’s communication system

Check the toilet.  The color of your urine is a good indication of what’s going on inside.  If your urine is pale-yellow or straw colored, that’s a good indication that your body is hydrated.

2.  Weigh In and Weigh Out

Knowing how much weight you lose during a workout can be very helpful in determining your hydration plan.  Use a sweat loss rate calculator to determine how much fluid you lose during an hour of activity.  Fluid loss beyond 2-3% of one’s body weight can translate into performance decline and negative health effects. Plan accordingly to attenuate excessive loss through consumption of fluids at regular intervals during your workout.  Granted, this amount will vary in different environments, so it’s useful to know your sweat rates in several conditions.  If you’re training for a race or other event, determine your sweat rate in conditions similar to those on race day.  For after your workout, use the rule of thumb  for every 1 lb weight lost during exercise, drink 20-24 oz of fluids to replenish that loss  and encourage rehydration.

3.  Add a dash of salt

Consumption of fluids containing sodium during longer-duration exercise can help to improve water retention and encourage thirst.  Classic sports drinks or hydration powders available are great options (My personal favorite is the delicious, fruit-based hydration powder by Skratch Labs).   If you find that after a workout, you have white residue on darker clothing you probably fall into the classification of salty sweater.  Especially during hot times of the year like now, you may need to up your sodium intake slightly during your workout and potentially throughout the day during meals to encourage sodium and fluid balance*.

4.  Start in fueled up

I would hope this is common sense, but don’t head out into the heat if you haven’t been drinking enough fluids.  Starting your workout dehydrated is just a bad idea.  Especially if you are exercising later in the day, make sure that you have been consuming enough fluids.  Consume fluids regularly throughout the day and try to consume 1-2 cups of fluids 4 hours before and again 2 hours before your workout.  If you run first thing in the morning, top yourself off with 1-2 cups of water before you head out.

*If you have been told that you have high blood pressure or heart disease, consult with your doctor and dietitian about what your daily sodium intake should be.