As the temperature rises through the summer months and people continue to be active outdoors it becomes more important to stay hydrated and to be conscious of the temperature and humidity outside. Heat illnesses and dehydration are major concerns. This is especially important for the runners of the many marathons and triathlons that are organized during this time of the year. Muscles and every organ of your body require water to function correctly and to remain healthy.
The first step in preventing illness is to hydrate before exercise. If you have a dry mouth, you are already dehydrated. To determine the amount of fluids you need to take, do a run test. First weigh yourself wearing no clothing. If you are a trained runner go for a 60 minute run, or for 30 minutes if you are not. Then weigh yourself again naked. The reason for weighing yourself naked is to avoid having an inaccurate weight taken by the added weight of your clothing. After activity, your clothes may weigh more than they did before because of sweat being absorbed, especially if the clothing is still saturated with sweat. Each pound that is lost is equal to 16 ounces of water. So if you lost 3 pounds on a run, you should drink what equals up to 3 16 ounce glasses of water or sports drinks to replace the lost fluids. Different brands of sports drinks will help you replace the electrolytes lost from sweating.
The second step is to ensure you do not get overheated. Make sure you have access to cold drinks during and after your run.
Finally, if you are just beginning to run in the heat, keep your runs shorter or allow yourself to take breaks for the initial first few days. This will allow your body to adapt to the changing climate.
As a reminder, if you are thirsty, YOU ARE ALREADY DEHYDRATED. After doing an initial run test, keep in mind how much water weight was lost and try to hydrate over the time before your next run or activity of that intensity. Another tip is to have a water bottle with you at all times so you can sip throughout the day. It is also important to drink at least a glass of water before going to bed at night. If you are sleeping 6-8 hours, that means you are not taking in fluids for those 6-8 hours. You can also have a glass or bottle of water on your nightstand that would be in reach if you wake up and need a drink. Equally important is being sure you drink plenty of water in the morning after waking up for the same reason you drank water before bed; you may not have had anything to drink for the period you were asleep and may be dehydrated or susceptible to dehydration.
Light clothing is also important during activity. Heavier shirts cause the body to retain heat and produce more sweat, resulting in more fluid loss. Many athletic companies have their own versions of “performance” or “athletic” shirts and clothing lines specifically made for wearing in the heat to help keep you cool.