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Hydrating… to suffer better



With the heat of summer being in full force, we asked our resident nutrition genius, Dina Griffin, to share her wisdom on the hydration question.  She always nails it.
Summer time means more sweating for us outdoor enthusiasts!  Speaking of sweat, how are your hydration strategies?  How about a few quick tips to keep you on track so you can cover more ground, and feel good doing it, out there?

1. Plan for what you’re about to do… and reflect on what you just did!  If you’re headed out for a shorter adventure (let’s say less than 60-75 minutes in duration) that is not expected to be too difficult or strenuous, then it’s okay to go lighter on fluid intake during your activity. However, you should still put a focus on fluid intake pre- and post-activity.

There’s no single fool-proof formula for an exact amount of fluids you should drink before you head out, but you can apply some common sense (i.e., really think about what you are drinking and how much!) or aim for a range of 16-24 ounces in the 1-2 hours prior to your planned activity.  Read on.
For post-activity hydration, the standard guidelines state to drink 16-24 ounces for every pound of fluid loss (or body mass loss). For example, if your net fluid losses were 48 ounces, then you should drink 48-72 ounces within a couple hours. Unfortunately, this isn’t a fool-proof formula either and to be honest, most of us have no idea how to properly monitor our fluid losses. If you have a second workout later in the day, know you sweat heavily (possibly combined with under-consuming fluids), or you feel you aren’t recovering well from your adventures, then it is worth your time to learn how to monitor and fine-tune your hydration and rehydration strategies.

2. For those of you exercising at higher elevation (above 8,000 feet), in direct sun exposure for prolonged periods, and/or heavy sweater types, ideally you take fluids with you to drink throughout your activity. Again, there’s not a single hydration strategy that applies to everyone, but generally 3-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes works for most individuals. That’s a fairly broad recommendation range, so take note of what you are doing and then experiment with a different strategy the next time to see if you feel better or worse. If you are getting headaches or migraines during or after your activity, your hydration strategy may be the culprit (unless you also had one too many cocktails the night before!).

3. You can drink fluids other than plain water to hydrate. In fact, if you are going to be out on the trails for several hours in the summer heat, you will be better off to include fluids that contain sodium (and I’m not talking about the salt on the rim of the margarita!). The added sodium will help your body absorb fluids more efficiently. In essence, you end up “dehydrating” more slowly. There are gobs of sports drinks and electrolyte formulas on the market. Choosing the right one depends on many factors such as your sweat rate, sweat sodium concentration (how salty your sweat is), duration/intensity of planned activity, whether other calories are being consumed (and what type), gut tolerance, and so on.Hydration is often given inadequate attention during our summer months, so give it a fresh eye and see what you notice. If you need help making some sense of it all, give me a shout and let’s figure out what you need to go suffer better.
-Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD, CISSN
Sport Dietitian and The Nutrition Mechanic

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