Staying Hydrated During Outdoor Exercise

            With the arrival of summer and the joy of being outside comes the risk of dehydration.  From hiking or running, golfing or a leisurely stroll, exertion leads to sweating which can lead to a loss of water.  Running around playing soccer on the pitch (let’s go USA women!!), playing baseball on the diamond, or just going for a run will cause your body temperature to rise.  To combat the rise in body temperature, we sweat.  As our sweat evaporates, it cools the body.  However, in high humidity, the sweat does not evaporate and that leads to an increased risk of dehydration.  Even a hike in a wooded area in the shade, the heat and humidity can take a toll on our system and our body needs to cool itself.  Which is why, having plenty of water, or some kind of sports drink with electrolytes, is important.

            Water is vital for our daily life and function.  We can survive only 3 days without it.  Even if you do last three days, the second and third day will not be pretty.  It makes up 70% of our muscle.  It is the transport vehicle for digestion and nutrients to the cells within the blood stream and helps regulate blood volume.  Water helps regulate body temperature and heat loss, creates tears, and it helps with the synovial fluid that lubricates our joints.

            Through the course of a day, the average adult loses 84 ounces (or 2.5 liters).  1.5 liters are lost through urine, the remainder through sweat and breathing.  During exercise, we sweat, which is our body’s way of cooling down, thus expending more water.   To estimate how much you lose, weigh yourself before and then after your workout.  For each pound lost during exercise, it equates to 16 ounces of water.  In order to rehydrate after that workout, you'll need 16-24 ounces of fluids.  If exercising for an hour or less, water is fine.  If longer than an hour, in heat, use a sports drink.  Not only do sports drinks help provide fluids, they also provide electrolytes and sodium. 

            According the Mayo Clinic, a man’s daily fluid intake should be 15.5 cups (124 ounces, just under 1 gallon), and a woman’s daily fluid intake should be 11.7 cups (94 ounces, approximately 3/4 of a gallon).  Now I know what you are thinking.  That is a lot of water to drink.  I know.  I went to the bathroom 3 times since you started reading it.  It’s a good thing we can get water from food.  Stick to foods that have high water content, like watermelon (duh), cantaloupe, cucumbers, celery, and grapes.

            If we are unable to replenish our fluids, we begin to become dehydrated.  That is where things can go downhill fast.  There are several signs to alert you to a dehydrated state.  Initially it can start with increased thirst, dry mouth, and a sense of being tired.  As dehydration levels increase, the symptoms become more severe.  Headache and dizziness, fever, rapid heart rate, and lethargy are common and severe signs.  Another sure sign of dehydration levels is your urine.  A decrease in output, as well a more yellowish color, signals greater levels of dehydration.

            So when we get dehydrated, there are steps we can do to recover.  First and foremost is to stop the activity, and perhaps lay down in a cool shaded place if available, and to naturally rehydrate yourself slowly.  Obviously with water, take small sips, not big gulps, as this will induce stomach cramps and nausea.  Sports drinks are a great source of electrolytes and sodium, which will need to be replenished.  Or you can create your own drink by mixing 1 quart of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 6 teaspoons of sugar.  You can also replenish fluids via food.         

As you can see water is very important to our daily life.  An increase in activity will lead to an increase rate of dehydration levels.  As humans, we can adapt to almost anything, as evolution has shown us.  However, fluid loss is not one of things we can adapt to.  Water always has to be replenished.  Whether it be via food, drinking water or sports drinks, or preferably a combination of that, staying hydrated is clearly, very important. So, drink plenty, and stay hydrated my friends!