Monday, May 25, 2015

Take a Sip: Summer Gear to Prevent Dehydration

It’s May and, depending on where you live, the summer heat is either just around the corner or it’s already here! As the temperature rises, you lose more fluids through sweat and, consequently, you must hydrate more frequently during exercise. However, while many of us understand that we need to drink more fluids in balmy conditions, we tend to drop the ball when it comes to actually implementing our “during-workout” hydration strategy. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics we can utilize to combat our impediments to optimal hydration.

-         I forget to drink when I’m in the middle of an intense workout or a game.
o   Ask your coach to interrupt practice for more water breaks, even as often as every 15 minutes if it’s really hot.
o   If your coach isn’t onboard or you workout independently, wear a watch and set a timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself, “Could I use some water?” and follow through appropriately.
o   Gear option: Wear a wrist water bottle, which is a completely hands-free option, and refill it at regular intervals. This unique device ensures that water can be easily accessible and visible at all times.
-         There’s no time!
o   We often feel this way when we have to interrupt our workout to seek out water. Thus, the solution to this is to carry water with you at all times – if you make it a convenient option, time will not be an issue. Any water bottle will do, but large ones may be more convenient if you are engaging in an activity where you are remaining in the same general area; the larger the bottle, the less you have to refill it.
o   Gear option: if you are engaging in an activity where you are covering distance, carrying water becomes important. There are many options for this, ranging from simply carrying a 50-cent, light recyclable water bottle to a hydration pack system that you wear on your back. Depending upon your sport, finances and individual preferences, one of these options may make more sense for you. Other popular options include water belts and hand-held systems.
-         I hate carrying a bottle on runs.
o   Some of us are irritated by any extra weight while running, and even a small water bottle feels like too much. The solution is to make sure there is water available on your route and this can be accomplished in a few ways. 1) Recruit a very sympathetic running partner to carry your water bottle in their hydration pack, 2) run along a route where public water fountains are accessible, or 3) create a route, such as a circle, where you can run by your water bottle at regular intervals.
-         I’m not thirsty.
o   For athletes, thirst is generally a good guideline for water consumption to avoid hyper-hydration or hyponatremia. However, when considering hypohydration, some level of dehydration is an inevitable reality the longer we exercise. Research has demonstrated that, even with forced water consumption, it is nearly impossible for our body to consume and absorb sufficient fluids to keep pace with fluid losses in extended exercise situations (think longer than 1 hour) (Dunford, 2012, p. 255). Consequently, dehydration is frequently progressing even though we may not be thirsty. The practical solution? Drink at least a small amount of fluid every 15 minutes during exercise if you are exercising in hot conditions; you will likely be thirsty at this rate. Use flavored water if necessary to promote consumption. An even better solution?  Work with a registered dietitian to come up with a personalized hydration plan based upon urine color or specific gravity, sweat rate, level of activity and electrolyte needs. Such a strategy can also address optimal sport drink usage, gastrointestinal issues and other factors that may be impacting thirst.  

Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2012). Water and electrolytes. In Nutrition for sport and exercise. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Laura Jane Nitowski, BA, is a 2nd-degree undergraduate Nutrition and Dietetics student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. For her first undergraduate degree from West Chester University, she majored in English Literature and minored in Psychology. Laura is interested in writing about human nutrition and psychology. Within the broad realm of nutrition, Laura is fascinated by the role of nutrition in human athletic performance; the effects of macronutrient variability on appetite and health; as well as human behavior surrounding food and the behavioral impacts of our food environment. She is also passionate about integrative and holistic nutrition approaches that treat people as complex and unique individuals. Laura is happiest when she is in-motion: running, hiking, and weightlifting. Visit her at