As the weather begins to heat up, managing hydration while exercising becomes important for athletes. Regardless of whether you live in a humid or dry climate, the main challenge that athletes face when the weather heats up is an increase in core body temperature. To understand the importance of hydration and how to properly hydrate, it is important to understand the physiology of exercising in the heat.
When we exercise, we convert stored calories (fat and carbohydrates) into energy that is then translated into movement. However, humans are not 100 percent efficient in this conversion, leaving about 70-80 percent of this energy lost as heat production. This is the primary reason that we heat up while exercising. The process of heat loss gets magnified when exercising in hot weather, which is why we sweat more and are at a greater risk of dehydration.
Although exercising in the heat imposes a huge demand on the body, there are ways to manage this challenge. Adequate hydration before, during and after exercise sessions is crucial for maintaining performance in the heat. Read on to discover five tips to help keep cool in the heat —
Don’t Wait Until You Are Thirsty To Start Drinking!
Perhaps the biggest mistake endurance athletes make is waiting until they are thirsty to start drinking. Upon the onset of thirst, an athlete is already 3% dehydrated which reduces maximal performance capability by 15%. This adds up to be a large chunk of time when looking at such endurance events as marathons, long-course triathlons and adventure races.
To prevent dehydration, it is best to sip on fluids throughout the day until urine flows clear to pale yellow. Daily fluid needs vary depending on the body composition and total weight of the athlete. The following equation can be used to estimate daily fluid needs in ounces:
Body weight (in pounds) / 2 = Daily Fluid Needs in Ounces
Note – These fluids should be non-carbonated and non-caffeinated, as caffeine and carbonation tend to increase gastric emptying of fluids.
Fill Up Your Fluid Tank Before Training.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that athletes fortify themselves with at least 16 ounces of non-carbonated and non-caffeinated fluids about an hour prior to exercise.
For those who have trouble holding fluids, try sipping on a sports drink containing sodium that last hour rather than drinking all 16 ounces at once. The sodium in the sports drink will help increase absorption of the water into the cells.
Stay On Top Of Your Fluids DURING Your Workout.
Maintaining fluid balance during exercise requires replacement of fluids that are lost via sweat and urine by drinking hydrating beverages like water and other sports drinks.
In order to get a more exact estimate of your fluid needs, determination of sweat rate is necessary. To determine sweat rate, weigh both times – immediately pre-workout and post-exercise on several different occasions. Every pound of body weight lost during exercise is equivalent to approximately 16 ounces of fluid. For example, if you consistently lose 1 pound of body weight on a 30-minute run where you are not drinking anything, your hourly fluid needs are 32 ounces per hour.
Don’t Neglect Electrolytes In Exercise Lasting > 1 Hour.
In addition to fluid replacement, replacement of electrolytes becomes instrumental in endurance routines lasting longer than 1 hour, especially when completed in hot and humid conditions.
The principle electrolytes include sodium (generally bound to chloride), potassium, magnesium and calcium. These electrolytes are involved in metabolic activities and are essential for normal functioning of all cells, including muscle function.
An electrolyte imbalance has reported symptoms similar to dehydration: nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, muscle cramping, muscle twitching, overall fatigue, labored breathing, “pins and needles” and confusion.
Rehydrate Upon Completion Of Training.
For every pound of body weight lost during exercise, consume 16-24 ounces of fluid as means to rehydrate and enhance post-workout recovery. Sports drinks are desirable for post-workout hydration due to the sodium (which increases fluid absorption) and carbohydrate (replenishes lost glycogen) content.
On a final note, it is important to be careful out there especially if you are training alone. Increased heat and humidity makes optimal fluid and electrolyte replacement challenging and hydration should be taken very seriously. You can also opt for hydration support products like Kaged Muscle Hydra-Charge – a delicious way to deliver electrolytes to support hydration before, during and after intense training.