Beat the Heat


Proper hydration can help improve your exercise performance and survive the brutal heat. Adequate fluid replacement is the most frequently overlooked performance aid. Fluids can actually delay fatigue and help you maintain a higher level of performance.

Fluids have many important functions in the body such as producing energy, regulating body temperature, eliminating waste products and dissipating heat through the skin as sweat. Inadequate fluid intake, along with heat and humidity, inhibits your body from performing tasks and speeds up dehydration. When 2% of body weight is lost through sweat, heart rate increases and cardiac output decreases, all of these hinder performance. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, increased heart rate, headache, concentrated urine or low volume of urine, cramps and diarrhea during exercise.

The following are tips to help prevent dehydration:

1. Drink adequate fluids on a daily basis. The easiest way to check if you are well hydrated is to monitor the amount and color of your urine. You should urinate frequently throughout the day and the urine should be a clear, lemonade color. Vitamin pills may cause your urine to appear a fluorescent color, so it is best to monitor hydration by the quantity of urine. Another way to monitor hydration is to weigh before and after exercise. For each pound that you lose during exercise, you should drink 16-20 ounces of hydrating fluid. It is easy during the summer months to become chronically dehydrated. Chronic fatigue and headaches can be caused by dehydration. Pay attention to how you feel. Remember that caffeine and alcohol can act as a diuretic and increase fluid loss.

2. Hydrate prior to exercise. Drink 16-24 ounces of fluids two hours prior to exercise. This allows the body time to process the liquids so that you will have a chance to eliminate excess prior to your workout. Consume another 16 ounces of cold water or sports drink 10-15 minutes before to help lower your body temperature and allow your body to be ready to replace sweat losses.

3. Drink during exercise. Thirst is not an adequate guide. It is necessary to drink according to a schedule. It is ideal to drink 5-10 ounces of water or sports drink every 15-20 minutes. Mark a sports bottle in 5 or 10 ounce increments to help you keep track. You will be playing catch up because the body can sweat off as much as three times this amount. It is important to take plenty of fluids early to aid in preventing dehydration. By the time you are thirsty, you have lost 1% of your body weight and your performance suffers. Drink before you are thirsty.

4. Quench your thirst and keep drinking. You need to drink 16 -20 ounces for every pound of body weight lost after exercise. Rehydrating within one hour post-exercise will help you to recover quickly.

Water is an effective beverage for exercise lasting one hour or less. For athletes who are exercising 60-90 minutes, a sports drink, containing 4-8% carbohydrate, such as Gatorade or Powerade, can offer an energy advantage. Consuming these carbohydrates during long workouts will help maintain a normal blood sugar level and increase your stamina. Drinks that contain more than 10% carbohydrate such as fruit juice, soft drinks and concentrated fructose drinks are absorbed slower and may cause gastrointestinal distress. It is best to experiment during training to see what works best for you. Sweat contains water and small amounts of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes that keep your body in fluid balance. You can easily replace these losses after exercise by consuming a balanced diet.

Keep these tips in mind as the heat and humidity continue through the summer because adequate hydration can make the difference between a good workout and a poor one.