Summer temperatures, enjoyable on an island paradise, can be an obstacle for athletes in training. The heat brings a variety of challenges for athletes training during July and August. Staying adequately hydrated allows you to regulate your body temperature, delay fatigue, maintain mental acuity and improve recovery time. Here’s how to achieve proper hydration during a heat wave.
Where to Start?
There’s no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to hydrating. But a good first step is to calculate your individual sweat rate to determine losses during activity. I love the calculator on the Power Bar website. It requires you to weigh yourself before and after exercise to determine how much fluid you need. The goal is stay in the proper hydration zone by losing no more than 2% of your body weight during exercise. You also want to make sure you are not gaining weight, as this is a sign of drinking too much fluid.
Make a Plan
It can be difficult for athletes to rely on thirst alone, since feeling thirsty is a sign you are already dehydrated. Instead, plan to consume fluids at 10- to 15-minute intervals as you exercise, reaching a total determined by your sweat rate calculation. It’s helpful to work with a sports dietitian who can construct a plan that works for you.
What Kind of Fluid Is Best?
If you are exercising for less than an hour in cool to moderate conditions, water is fine. For anything over an hour, or if you are exercising in high heat and humidity, you also need electrolytes. Sports drinks such as Gatorade are great, or you can use a more natural form of electrolytes in coconut water. Sodium is the most important electrolyte to pay attention to in heat and humidity, and you can add salt to your diet with snacks such as pretzels.
Don’t Forget About the Rest of the Day
It’s not only important to hydrate during exercise, but also throughout the entire day. According to the Academy of Sports Medicine, you need between a half ounce and an ounce of water (or other fluids) for each pound of body weight per day. Try to drink water with meals and snacks and aim for 2 to 3 cups within the hour before exercising. After a workout, replace fluid and sodium losses with watery foods that also contain salt such as soups or vegetable juice.
Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Dietetic Practice Group