We Live In a “Swamp”: Strategies to Stay Hydrated and Safe During the Summer Months
Jul 25 2014

We Live In a “Swamp”: Strategies to Stay Hydrated and Safe During the Summer Months

By Erik Strouse, MS
VIDA Fitness Master Trainer

2954474471_12_sweat_answer_1_xlargeIt’s been quite the summer, eh VIDA members? We’ve been quite lucky to experience one of the most beautiful summers in recent years with temperatures that are simply amazing. It’s somewhat surprising, considering we live in a “swamp”, although this is actually an inaccurate myth. Either way, it sure feels like a swamp!! Back to the point at hand: we all know it is only a matter of time before the nice weather wears off, and the high temperatures rear their ugly head again.

Heat is not the sole contributor to the swamp-like environment in the Nation’s Capital. In fact, most of the reason it gets so uncomfortable this time of year has to do with the humidity. Humidity is the saturation of water in the air, and the closer it reaches to 100%, the less water the air will be able to absorb. The unpleasant feeling is well known by all. It makes us feel instantly wet, makes breathing feel like a chore, and can make indoor and outdoor workouts incredibly difficult and dangerous. The last point about the danger this poses is what I want to educate you on how to avoid.

Here is the deal – We are all going to sweat more than we realize during the summer months due to the combination of heat and humidity. Sweating is the most efficient and preferred method of lowering core temperature as air is blown across your sweaty skin. So, whether you like it or not, it is going to happen on a large level even if you do not feel it. (You should be happy it does!) This can, unbeknownst to you, cause dehydration, and become a perpetual cycle of water and electrolyte loss. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, crankiness, difficulty thinking during normal day to day tasks, muscle cramps, and decreased exercise performance [1,2]. Further, if exposed to high heat scenarios such as exercise, indoors or out, you run a higher risk for light-headedness, nausea, passing out, or worse, heat stroke. Even with modern air conditioning lowering ambient air temperatures, you can still have high humidity levels indoors. So even if you are exercising inside, you can still sweat excessively. I have comprised some tips on how to avoid dehydration, and putting yourself at risk for a really bad day!

Tip #1: For most moderately active people, 3-5 L of water should be consumed daily. Up to 10 L may be needed if vigorously active, or on a really high humidity day. [1]

Tip #2: Weigh yourself before and after your workout. This is a simple way to have a quantitative assessment for total fluid loss. Try to return your body weight back to your pre-workout weight as soon as you can [1].

Tip #3: Hydrate during the course of your workout, and make it cold water if possible! This will not only mitigate total fluid loss by replacing lost perspiration [1], but the colder water will help keep your core temperature lower reducing the total amount of sweat needed.

Tip #4: Post workout, consume approximately 2 L of water split into 500 ml servings every 20-30 minutes. This is more effective than drinking it all at once. [1]

Tip #5: Workout indoors or the early morning or late evening to keep exposure to peak heat hours down. If midday is all you have, avoid being outside on high humidity days. 80% or above on humidity is going to make it really tough to keep core temperatures down which will lead to a high level of water loss. Heat stroke is not worth the workout…

Tip #6: Reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol suppresses Anti-Diuretic Hormone, thus resulting in excessive fluid loss. This is exaggerated pending the amount of drinks you consume in a given day. If you do drink more than one within close proximity to one another, balance each serving of alcohol with a glass of water.

Sources:
1: Casa DJ, Clarkson PM, Roberts WO: American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable on Hydration and Physical Activity: Consensus Statements. Current Sports Medicine Reports 2005, 4; 115-127.

2: Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, Casa DJ, et al.: Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women. The Journal of Nutrition 2011, 111.142000; 1-7.

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