Eric Cassara, Dietetic Intern, Montclair State University Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS, Preceptor and FCHS Educator
Small steps to improve your health include eating, drinking, and physical activity. Hydration is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Making sure that you are drinking the right amount of fluids before, during, and after physical activity is essential to providing your body with the fluids it needs to perform properly. A good rule of thumb is to aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces daily. For example, 140 pounds = 70 ounces of fluids or 8.75 cups. Be a Weather Watcher Both exercise and warm weather can increase your body temperature. Your body cools itself by sweating, but it can become harder to stay cool during humid weather since moisture doesn’t evaporate as quickly from your skin. Your heart rate rises as your body works harder to remain cool. When the weather heats up, it is very important to make sure that you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated. Drinking water, rather than pouring it over your head, is the only way to rehydrate and cool your body from the inside out. Watch Your Water Weight You may be surprised by how easy it is for you to lose a few pounds of water weight through sweating. Try to weigh yourself before and after each workout, and replace each pound of weight loss with 3 cups of water. Water is the ideal hydration choice because it moves quickly though your digestive system and into your tissues. Stay hydrated by sipping small amounts of water throughout the day; avoid chugging down fluids right before exercising to avoid stomach discomfort and bloating. Scout Your Sports Drinks Many sports drinks may look appealing, but they can also contain a lot of added sugar. It is important to consider your performance goals before you select a drink. For the average workout of 60 minutes or less, your body usually won’t need anything other than water. If you are sweating heavily or exercising for more than 60 minutes, it is likely that you’ve lost a lot of electrolytes, including sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. For these types of long workouts, a low-calorie beverage that contains electrolytes may help you to rehydrate more efficiently. Do a Bathroom Check When you are sufficiently hydrated, your urine will be the color of straw or lemonade. If it is clear, you may be drinking too much. If your urine is a dark color, such as the color of apple juice, it is a sign of potential dehydration. Defend Against Dehydration Dehydration typically results when a person does not replace the fluid their body loses at an acceptable rate. Dehydration can occur in almost every physical activity scenario. It does not have to be in warm weather, and you don’t have to be visibly sweating. You can become dehydrated in the water, at a pool or lake, or skiing on a winter day. If you notice the signs of dehydration and treat it quickly, you should recover completely. Early signs include:
- Flushed skin
- Premature fatigue
- Increased body temperature
- Faster breathing and pulse rate
- Increased weakness
- Labored breathing with exercise
- Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals. 5th ed. C.A. Rosenbloom e al., eds. Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012.
- 2. Denny, Sharon. "Hydrate Right During Physical Activity." Eatright.org. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 23 Mar. 2015. Web.