During this time of year in the Lowcountry, even the live oaks look hot and in need of a respite from the heat. Those of us trying to keep in step with our workout routines know just how they feel — hot and thirsty.
And for good reason: Dehydration is a big risk in summer months, experts say.
“Everyone is different. What may tax one person may not affect another,” said Laura Fromdahl, owner of Tri Strong Coaching. “This can be difficult if you compare yourself to your training partner or other people. Read your body. If you experience any of the symptoms, you need to up your hydration game."
SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION INCLUDE:
- Elevated resting heart rate — you can find your average waking heart rate by using a smart watch or taking your pulse.
- Unquenchable thirst.
- Muscle soreness after a 72-hour period.
- Dry skin — if you pinch the skin on your hand and it doesn’t bounce back in seconds, you need water.
Dehydration can have a big impact on the body.
“From a sports perspective, losing as little as 2 percent of your body weight in fluids can cause measurable decreases in performance,” Fromdahl said. “Dehydration of more than 3 percent of your body weight is serious, increasing the possibility of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in warm and/or humid conditions. Since athletes can sweat out 6 percent to 10 percent of their body weight during a prolonged workout or competition, re-hydration is critical.”
The effects of dehydration go beyond affecting athletic performance. For example, the human brain is 85 percent water, and even mild dehydration can cause changes in mood and a decline in concentration and alertness. Dehydration also can make blood thicker, increasing your heart rate while decreasing the amount of blood your heart can pump per beat — causing blood pressure to drop.
The symptoms of dehydration also can be easily confused with hunger. Sometimes a craving or afternoon slump is actually your brain trying to tell you that you need more water. And if you wait to rehydrate until you are thirsty — and stop drinking when your thirst feels satisfied — experts say you’ll still likely remain 25 percent to 50 percent dehydrated.
To beat dehydration, Fromdahl says prevention is key. Check your urine. If it is dark, you need to hydrate. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces per day as a baseline. And when exercising, make sure to drink something before, during and after your workout. If you do not like plain water, try adding lemon or lime juice, or, my favorite, tart cherry juice. Consider supplementing with electrolytes like Tailwinds Nutrition. And eat hydrating foods like foods rich in potassium like bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, beans and yogurt; calcium-rich foods like milk, kefir, tofu, spinach and kale; foods high in magnesium like dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds and nuts; and foods high in phosphorus, like beans, peanuts, cheese and whole grains.
For a great pre-exercise snack, try almond butter — rich in calcium, magnesium and sodium — on a potassium-rich banana 30 minutes before hitting the gym.