Drinking Enough Water? Part II

Exercise much? Of course you do, right?

So, you work out.  Your body heats up.  Then it needs to be cooled down to keep your body at a safe temperature.  After all, you don't want to get overheated and end up with heat related illnesses, and certainly not heat stroke. To cool down, your body sweats, and its evaporation creates cooling. The harder and longer you work out, the the more fluids you need to produce sweat.  Higher temperatures, humidity, and altitudes all increase the amount you need.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you consume plenty of fluids and stay well hydrated at least 24 hours before exercise (which means all the time, right?) Two hours before exercise, drink about 2 cups of water.  Replenish fluids at regular intervals if your exercise lasts longer than 30 minutes, ideally enough to replace water lost. Long distance runners are encouraged to drink 1 cup for every 20 minutes. After the workout, drink 1-2 glasses of fluid, or as much as needed to fully rehydrate.

Water is the best choice for most of us: it's calorie free and absorbed quickly. On that note, icy cold water is actually absorbed faster, so keep that in mind as the weather and your workouts warm up.

Sports drinks aren't needed unless your work out is at least an hour. With longer workouts, sports drinks replenish some of the electrolytes (sodium and potassium) lost along with all that sweat. The carbohydrates in sports drinks supply quick energy to delay fatigue during endurance exercise.

Chugging way,way too much plain water can induce hyponatremia, or water intoxication. In this condition, your electrolytes are extremely diluted, wreaking havoc with muscles and nerves. Water intoxication is fairly rare, but is being seen more often as more and more rookie exercisers try endurance events. If they don't know how to safely hydrate and the need to up the sodium, they can be at risk. Hey, if you're drinking 8 glasses of water a day, don't panic, as that's not even close to the amount to put you in danger.

Now you can find all sorts of interesting sports and fitness drinks out there---enough to make your head spin! Some of these fitness drinks are adding vitamins, caffeine, and herbal supplements that suggest benefits.  Are they worth it?
  • Get your vitamins from food and not in your sports drink. Just eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy, dry beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If you get too many of some vitamins, toxicity can develop.  This may be a problem for people who drink many of these vitamin-fortified drinks and/or who are taking multiple vitamin supplements. 
  • Caffeine is a non-harmful stimulant and has actually been shown to enhance increase endurance, alertness and motor skill, but too much caffeine can cause jitters. The NCAA bans caffeine at levels higher than the equivalent of 5 cups of Starbucks coffee.
  • Taurine, ginkgo biloba, and ginseng have not been proven to have any effect and are simply a waste.  
  • Guarana is an herbal supplement that like to act like caffeine, but more mild.
The bottom line: Be sure to increase fluids before, during and after exercise.  Bottoms Up!!