Heading for the mound for some heated games in your summer league? Prevent dehydration and heat illness during those long, hot hours with this 411 from Jeff Zachwieja, principal scientist for the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI).
According to Zachwieja, hot and humid weather exposes you to situations in which you're more likely to suffer from dehydration. Being dehydrated means that you're low on body fluid, which places stress on your cardiovascular system, resulting in an increased heart rate. Also, your blood pressure goes down, which can lead to lightheadedness, fatigue and ultimately "just feeling weak." Both your physical and mental performances suffer, because, says Zachwieja, "dehydration can affect your ability to stay focused—and make quick and rapid decisions."
Another danger: dehydration can induce heat exhaustion, which you can recognize by the following symptoms, according to GSSI: dizziness, chills, light-headedness and loss of coordination. Even more severe, dehydration can lead to heat stroke, which is indicated by a higher than normal body temperature and unconsciousness.
"The body just begins to shut down because it's way too hot, and it just cannot function properly," says Zachwieja.
When you're competing in a hot environment, staying adequately hydrated minimizes the risk of dehydration and heat-related illness. Zachwieja recommends consuming a sodium-containing fluid such as Gatorade, which will help prevent a decline in blood sodium levels. In addition, Gatorade is formulated to replace electrolytes, which your body loses through sweat.
"You're only addressing part of the problem of dehydration when you're consuming water alone," Zachwieja says. "Sweat is more than just water. It's also sodium, potassium, a little bit of calcium and magnesium."
Those key electrolytes, especially sodium, ensure that fluid is well distributed throughout the body. "About 60 percent of our entire bodyweight is made up of fluid," he explains. "It's important to keep it at about that level." How to do this: weigh yourself before and after practices and games; the difference in body weigh represents the amount of fluid you need to drink. One pound of weight lost during activity is equivalent to approximately 16 ounces of fluid.
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