Earlier this summer, we blogged about 5 Steps to Avoiding Heat Stroke, but one of them especially applies to all of us at all times. Specifically athletes in the warm weather we are experiencing during these final days of summer.
Specifically, we are speaking about hydration—and avoiding dehydration. Although clichéd, the analogy of comparing your body to an automobile is apt considering that, like a car, your body needs water to avoid overheating. Having enough water in your system allows for sweat, which in turn allows your body’s tissues to cool.
SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION
Before we point out when and how much you should drink, though, you should know the symptoms of dehydration go beyond not feeling your very best. Although you might tune out your coach after a long practice when they talk about the intake of fluids, know that signs of dehydration can include:
- Dark-Colored Urine (darker than straw-colored/beige-yellow)
- Dry Cough
- Flushed Skin
- Intolerance to Heat
- Loss of Appetite
Think about it: Those are a lot of dangerous symptoms to endure for not drinking enough of the proper fluids.
So we suggest remembering this: Drink before you get thirsty. Because if you wait that long, you are already dehydrated.
HOW TO PROPERLY HYDRATE
The best way to describe what to drink—and what not to drink—is that not all hydration is created equal. Some beverages hydrate well, while others actually dehydrate.
If you are consistently active, we recommend drinking at least 16-20 ounces of water or a sports drink (Gatorade and Powerade not only contain water, but also sodium and potassium which will help replenish what is lost through sweating). And then add another 8-10 ounces for every 15 minutes you are outdoors: If practice is one hour drink 32-40 ounces; 32 ounces is a quart, or a large bottle of Gatorade or Powerade.
Also, know that cold beverages absorb into your body faster, cool your body temperature quicker and are often more desirable—which encourages continued hydration!
Notice that we mentioned water and sports drinks. Most sodas, specifically colas, contain quantities of caffeine and sugar that actually pull water from your body and can actually assist in dehydration. In addition, the amount of caffeine in coffee and teas are counterproductive to proper hydration.
Moreover, fruit juices—and fruit drinks, which are often artificially flavored and overloaded with sugar—provide a bunch of carbohydrates, little sodium, and could upset your stomach unless mixed with equal parts water. Besides, many fruit juices are not pure fruit juices and, like fruit drinks, contain excessive amount of unnatural sugar.
This is why, for activities lasting about an hour, we suggest that water is plenty good enough for proper hydration. However, if that hour will be spent under a sweltering sun—or if you are planning to spend more than an hour outdoors—make sure you replenish with a bottle of a sports drink. Because a lack of sodium or potassium can cause medical issues including cramping, heart palpitations, lethargy, and vomiting.
HOW TO KNOW YOU ARE PROPERLY HYDRATING
This is as easy as checking your urine. A clear, pale or straw-colored void is indicative of proper fluid intake. But if it is darker (dark yellow/orange), keep drinking!
Located at 1111 Paulison Ave. in Clifton, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Dr. Michael C. Russonella and primary care sports medicine specialist Dr. Manik Singh of the North Jersey Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Institute serve as team physicians for the Belleville and Bloomfield high school athletic departments.