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Staying Hydrated
By: Ian Webb

Staying Hydrated

How do we know if we are properly hydrated leading into that big game or half-marathon? Winter sporting events pose an interesting phenomenon around the world, as athletes and weekend warriors assume that in colder weather dehydration is not as severe. This is certainly not the case. Human behaviour is such that in colder weather, we naturally avoid drinking as much water as it is cold and we have the perception that we do not lose as much in colder weather. Countless research studies in English Football have shown that in fact footballers dehydrate more on colder days as they don’t drink as much. Therefore, correct hydration principles are an all year round practice and independent of the season.

However, rather than simply encouraging people to drink more water in the hope they cover all bases, a simpler method may be to first of all assess if someone is subject to excessive dehydration. This can be

done in two easy ways and only needs a week to assess.

Step one. Pre and post run bodyweight.

For the majority of weekend runners, Saturday is usually their big running day. This is the morning they may cover 15-25km as their ‘big’ run for the week. This is the best day to assess bodyweight loss. Weigh yourself before the run and after. Drink and hydrate as you would normally for that day (before

and during). A loss of more than 3% bodyweight is a cause for concern as research demonstrates that a 3% weight loss corresponds to roughly a 10% drop in performance. Sports performers can do the same procedure. Weigh in as you start to warm up and then again immediately after you finish the game.

Step Two. Urine charts for a week.

Standard urine colour charts can be downloaded easily of the internet. Print a couple of these off and tack one onto the bathroom wall at home and one at work. Unfortunately you will have to frequently ‘collect’ samples to compare your urine colour to the chart. If you are in the ‘dehydration’ zone then

slowly increase fluid intake on a daily basis, until you are regularly in the ‘hydrated’ zone. Drinking small amounts every 30 minutes is a better hydration practice than drinking large glasses 3 or 4 times per day. The gut is better able to absorb small amounts of fluid and not cause diarrhoea that is a risk

with large sudden water intake.

Hydration in athletes is a science all in itself, as the sports performance staff employed to look after athletes and teams understand the detrimental effect that dehydration has on performance, incidence of cramping and also soft tissue injury. The weekend warrior does not the need the sophisticated interventions such as ‘glycerol loading’, ‘IV fluids’, and ‘controlled electrolyte drinks’ that the sports people use.  Staying in the hydrated colour zone and ensuring that you remain within 3% bodyweight loss range during exercise may be all that is required. Furthermore, replacing some of the fluid intake (water) with an electrolyte fluid drink (Gatorade, Powerade or Gastrolyte) may also be a worthwhile practice so that the ‘extra’ water does not dilute the sodium content of the body (a condition called hyponatremia). Make up a litre of this in the morning (sachets can be purchases at all pharmacies and some supermarkets) and slowly sip this throughout the day as well as straight water.

Added: 17-04-2013