A Guide to Proper Hydration and Electrolyte Balance
Now that the weather is getting warmer we all need to remember the importance of monitoring our fluid intake. In hot weather you lose a lot of fluid through sweating. Among other things, this can result in a decrease in blood volume which would make it difficult for your body to cool itself down. High humidity can also play a factor in preventing your body from cooling down by preventing your sweat from evaporating. So if you are exercising outdoors, make sure to follow these tips:
- Exercise in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures are fairly low.
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing made with a fabric that “breathes”.
- Drink plenty of water both before and during your workout.
How much water should I consume?
Muscle tissue is made up of over 70% water and it is very important to cellular activity, so you should make sure you consume plenty of water throughout the day. The more protein you eat in your diet, the more water you will need to help clear the waste products such as ammonia and urea. Sweating from a grueling workout will cause you to lose more water as well. A good rule to follow to enure you stay adequately hydrated is to multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.55. This will give you a good goal to shoot for regarding how many ounces of water you should be drinking. For example, a 180 pound person would need to drink about 99 ounces of water a day. That’s about five 20 ounce bottles of water.
What about my electrolyte balance?
Electrolyte balance is crucial for many body functions. The primary electrolytes in the body are calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium, and are actually considered macrominerals. Some examples of what can happen from an electrolyte imbalance are:
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- Elevated potassium levels which could lead to cardiac arrhythmia
- A decrease in extracellular potassium can cause paralysis
- Excessive extracellular sodium causes fluid retention
- Decreased calcium can lead to muscle spasms
There are several drinks on the market right now that will help to keep your electrolyte balance in check, Gatorade and Powerade being two popular examples. Drinking one of these after a strenuous workout can help a lot to replenish the electrolytes lost through sweating.
Hydrating before exercise
If you know you will be exercising outdoors for an extended period of time, or maybe playing a sport like basketball, football, soccer, etc., then a good tip would be to start hydrating about 4 hours before hand. Drink about 8 ounces of water every 10-15 minutes until about an hour before you start. Then drink another 16 ounces at the one hour mark. Make sure not to drink anything for the last half hour, giving your body at least 30 minutes to absorb the water. During your exercise/game, make sure that you continue to drink 8-10 ounces of either water or an electrolyte drink, especially if it is hot and humid.
As long as you ensure that you are getting enough water throughout the day and you are replenishing your electrolytes after vigorous exercise, then exercising outdoors will not be a problem for you. Drink up and enjoy the sunshine!!