This week has been mercilessly hot. Many of my patients have asked me about how they can perform athletics or exercises in this heat. From the high school or junior high school athletes competing in one of two lacrosse tournaments this weekend (in Jersey or Massachusets) to the weekend warriors playing softball or going for a run, the same question has kept popping up this week. How do I stay hydrated while exercising?
The obvious answer is DRINK A LOT OF WATER! which is of course a good answer. The question that doesn't get asked that I believe is the real reason why many people will suffer with dehydration and possible heat exhaustion is WHEN should I drink a lot of water.
Many of us are frequently functioning in dehydrated states normally without realizing it. Do you get thirsty? That's your body's way of saying that you need more water, the problem is that it only tells you once you're running low, when it's too late. When someone who is already lacking enough water then decides to exercise strenuously in this type of heat, heat exhaustion or dehydration can occur.
WHAT TO DO? For all of my parents who asked me about this weekend's lacrosse tournament I gave the following advice. Have your child drink water all night on the night before until he/she is regularly urinating about every hour and the urine is clear (not yellow). This is the body eliminating excessive water. Keep in mind that if you chug seven glasses of water all at once most of that will not get absorbed by the body and will be passed through. Drink one cupful about every thirty minutes. You should then be fully hydrated for the next day's events.
During exercise, you will need to replenish, and I do think for those that are competing for longer periods of time, ie a tournemanet of four games in one day as opposed to a twenty minute run, that you need more than water. Gatorade is an example of something that will give you the other electrolytes that you lose when you sweat (I personally like diluting gatorade with about 50% water).
After competition you then go back to the same preperation you did the night before to restore all the water you lost until you are urinating frequently and it is clear in color.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR ARE DEHYDRATED? Parents can monitor their kids during performance or you can monitor yourself. One danger sign to look out for is when you stop sweating. You stop sweating because you don't have adequate water to do so any more. So if your child takes his helmet off and all the other kids are dripping with sweat and your child is no longer sweating, and or shaking a little bit, that would be signs of dehydration. That child should be prevented from competing and rehydrated immediately and cooled down. The danger is the inability to regulate your temperature (or in this case to cool your temperature).
Be smart about exercising in this heat. You can do it if you are prepared, or better yet, exercise inside or early in the morning or later in the evening.
As always comments and questions are encouraged. Stay tuned for the next blog when we talk about warming up prior to exercise.
Yours in Health
Chris Ostling PT, DPT