The 411 on Hydration

By Elizabeth Jarrard on May 6, 2014 , categorized in Endurance, Strength + Conditioning

Water, water everywhere but how much should you drink? Whether you’re brand new to running, or a seasoned triathlete, hydration questions are top of mind as the weather gets warmer. Learn why staying hydrated matters—for health and performance, and how to ensure you’re hydrated all summer long.

Sweat it out

When beads of sweat drop off your face, you’re not just losing water, you’re also losing electrolytes. If you’ve ever finished a race and discovered a white powder—similar to fine salt—on your skin, you’ve seen firsthand that loss of electrolytes. The amount of water and electrolytes you lose depends on the temperature, humidity, type of activity and your genetic predisposition. As you probably know if you work out with any training partners, some people are naturally heavy sweaters, while others barely break a sweat.

The main ingredient: water

Water is just as essential as oxygen for your body. Your blood is mostly water, and you better believe it needs plenty of it to deliver all key substances—like oxygen, nutrients, and hormones—to and waste from the cells. You also need water to regulate your body’s temperature and keep your skin firm.

Electrolytes for the win!

Electrolytes are a hot buzz word, but can you name the five main electrolytes off the top of your head? Hello sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride, and thank you for regulating our fluid balance, blood pH, heart, nerve and muscle function. These minerals are electrically charged, which means that they have the ability to conduct electrical impulses—essential in firing off muscle contractions. In order to keep muscular, cardiac, nervous, and digestive systems all running smoothly, an adequate supply of electrolytes is required.1Rolfes S, Pinna K, Whitney E. (2009) Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. Cengage Learning. 8th ed.

But how much do I sweat?

A sweat test is the easiest way to tell how much water (and sodium) you’re losing during an average workout. All you need is a scale—either at home or at your gym.

1.   Measure body weight before your workout

2.  Sweat it out

3.  Hop on a scale immediately after—with the exact same clothes that you weighed yourself in earlier (they should be sweaty—and probably a little smelly).

4.  Subtract weight after exercise from your weight before. If you weigh 155 pounds before and 153 pounds after, unfortunately you did not lose 2 pounds in fat—it was likely water.

5.  16 ounces (2 cups) of water should be consumed for every pound that has been lost.

6.  Besides water, consume 250 mg of sodium per pound of weight lost. Look at the nutrition label of your electrolyte replacement to see if it meets your needs.2International Olympic Committee (2010). Nutrition for Athletes. Accessed on 3/12/14 from http://www.olympic.org/documents/reports/en/en_report_833.pdf

Dangers of dehydration

The more you sweat during exercise, the more likely you are to become dehydrated. Low levels of hydration lead to low blood volume. When your blood volume drops, your body compromises circulation and has poor nutrient exchange, hormone balance and waste removal. With even a small change in water hydration level (even just 2%), exercise performance is decreased.3Sawka. M. H. (2007) Exercise and Fluid Replacement Position Stand. American College of Sports Medicine. 39 (2). 377-390. Accessed on 3/10/14 from: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2007/02000/Exercise_and_Fluid_Replacement.22.aspx

When dehydrated, sodium levels in the blood decrease, resulting in hyponatremia (low sodium levels). The first signs of hyponatremia include fatigue, headache, weakness and nausea. As the hyponatremia worsens you may experience cramping, disorientation and confusion, swelling of extremities, and in extreme cases, swelling of the brain. Cramping is common in athletes and is a good key indicator that the body has depleted its electrolytes.

Your hydration plan

No matter what type of athlete you are, it’s important to stay well-hydrated before, during and after exercise.

Pre-Workout

Even on days you’re not working out, be sure to drink water consistently. If you have time before you exercise, try to drink at least 1 cup of water. If you’re worried about having to run to the bathroom mid-workout, you can work on drinking more in the couple hours before you head out. Sick of plain ol’ water? Sip on a hydrating mocktail.

Mid-Workout

Rather than wait until you start to feel dizzy, or cramping, it’s best to hydrate consistently throughout your workout. A good rule is to sip on 1/2 cup of water every 15 minutes. Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator contains all essential electrolytes, as well as antioxidants. It has no calories and is appropriate for any type of activity and everyday hydration. For athletes working out for over 45 minutes, choose a gel that also includes added electrolytes—such as Vega Sport Endurance Gel.

Post-Workout

Based on your sweat test, make sure to adequately hydrate after your workout is done. It’s best to do a sweat test several times, as it may vary depending on day as well as type of activity. Sip on water, a smoothie, or Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator.

No matter what activity you’re doing, staying hydrated isn’t hard and will keep you safe and at peak performance.

How do you stay hydrated?

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exercise hydration

Elizabeth Jarrard

Elizabeth Jarrard is a registered dietitian in Denver, CO who specializes in medical nutrition therapy and plant-based nutrition. She educates clients and consumers on how to optimize their health through nutrition.

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