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Hydrating For Performance

Hydrate-Hydrate-Hydrate!! As we say goodbye to the cold weather (I hope I didn’t jinx anything by saying that) and hello to the hot, sunny days more and more people will be taking their activities and workouts outside. While hydration is always important, it becomes especially important in the warm weather.

Dehydration will affect your endurance performance and will also affect your power, strength and high intensity endurance… you’ll simply have to work harder to do the same exercise when you are in a dehydrated state. Besides affecting performance, dehydration will also degrade your short-term memory, coordination, attention and mental focus… pretty bad huh?

Thirst will probably be the first indicator that you are becoming dehydrated—you are actually already dehydrated if you are thirsty. Other signs include nausea, vomiting, headaches, flushed skin, light-headed, fatigue, rapid breathing, weakness and muscle cramps. So, it’s pretty clear that you should avoid this state as it doesn’t sound so pleasant.

So now you’re asking how much should you be drinking? Well, I’m glad you asked because I’m going to tell you. Most studies are done on sedentary people so keeping that in mind a male should consume on average 13 cups of water per day and women 9 cups per day. I’m talking measured cups not finding the biggest cup in the house and drinking 9-13 glasses of that. Also, everyone is unique so this is a guideline only.

Given that this is a baseline for inactive people, those that are involved in sports or an exercise program will need more. That being the case, it’s a good idea to pre-hydrate before working out, drink during your workout and then take in more fluids after your workout. The goal is to keep your fluid losses under 2%… the point at which your performance will start to suffer. To pre-hydrate, aim to drink 2-3 cups of water 2 hours before your activity (it’s actually 1.75-2.75 cups but I rounded up… I’m good at math like that) During exercise you want to be in the 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes range (or as needed if it’s particularly hot out) and then after exercise 2-3 cups for every pound of body weight lost. Ya, I know, that one will be hard but if you want to do it right you should weigh yourself before and then after exercise. So if after jogging you find you lost 2 pounds, you want to drink 4-6 cups of water… then probably go to the bathroom with all the water you’ve been drinking.

Are sports drinks OK? They aren’t bad. Generally, if your activity is 1 hour or less, stick to water. If you’ll be going hard for over an hour then a sports drink is recommended. A sports drink containing 8% carbohydrate is the best choice… which most big brand drinks are such as Gatorade.

Let’s not forget the kids… they need water too!! Youth need to be especially mindful of proper hydration. Youth don’t adapt as well to high temperatures like an adult can. Kids actually produce more heat than adults and have a lower sweat capacity. As a result, their body temperatures can increase to unsafe levels during exercise in hot conditions so parents, monitor them closely as they head out to engage in their summer sports.

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