South Florida runners begin training hard for upcoming distance events during the fall and winter months, covering 5k, half-marathon (13.1-mile) or marathon races full. But just because fall has arrived here on schedule and the temperatures are a bit milder, the daytime heat and humidity is still very much present.
Hydration is more vital than ever for anyone training or exercising outdoors in South Florida, says Michael Swartzon, MD, primary sports medicine physician at Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.
“Dehydration can be caused by several factors, including the intensity of exercise or training, environmental conditions – which mainly boil down to the heat and humidity in South Florida – and the amount of fluids consumed, ”says Dr. Swartzon. “If you lose 2% of your body mass due to fluid loss, performance levels can drop quickly, dehydration intensifies.”
Everyone’s hydration needs are different, and active people should be aware of their own needs to maximize safety and performance.
“Common symptoms of dehydration include increased heart rate, fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, and even impaired brain function, such as decreased focus, alertness, and poor short-term memory. Says Michael Yurubi, DO, Sports Medicine Fellow.
Checking the hydration status
How to learn to measure the state of hydration? An easy way to check is to look at the color of the urine. If your urine is clear to very light yellow, you probably have adequate hydration. In comparison, dark yellow or amber urine usually indicates dehydration.
“It’s important to keep in mind that thirst is a late indicator of dehydration,” says Dr Swartzon. “When we are thirsty, the body is already dehydrated at the cellular level. Therefore, this signal is considered to work best during rest or when exercising at lower intensities.
Do you know how much water to drink before, during and after exercise? There is no single amount that meets everyone’s needs. The widely accepted recommendation is 64 ounces or eight glasses of water per day. But physical activity increases that amount.
According to the American Council on Exercise, a person should drink:
- 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercise;
- 8 ounces of water 20-30 minutes before exercise or during warm-up;
- 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise,
- and 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes of completing the activity.
In addition to drinking enough water, other pre-workout hydration tips include limiting the intake of caffeine and other diuretics from sources such as teas, coffee, and stimulant drinks. These drinks increase the amount of water lost from the body.
“Suppose you choose to drink coffee or some other caffeinated beverage (common in pre-workout drinks),” says Dr. Swartzon. “In this case, it is vital to follow it with twice the ounces of water to replace the fluids excreted by the caffeine.”
Certain food choices can also be a good source of hydration in addition to water. Fruits such as grapefruit, watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe are great choices for pre-competition snacks or when added during activity to maintain water balance. Appropriate clothing for the environment is also a factor to consider.
Water and sports drinks
For most people, water is the best liquid to drink before, during, and after exercise, say Drs. Swartzon and Yurubi.
“However, if you plan to exercise for more than an hour, you should supplement with a sports drink,” says Dr. Yurubi. “Sports drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that prevent hypoglycemia and the loss of electrolytes like sodium and chloride that must be replenished after sweating.”
Begin rehydration within two hours of exercising to ensure ideal hydration levels. You can also measure how much fluid you lose during exercise by measuring your weight before and after exercise (16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost).
“For both amateur and professional athletes, maintaining proper hydration before, during and after exercise is essential,” says Dr Swartzon. “Once you gain experience with your workouts, you will learn about your personal hydration needs. “