Feeling Hot and Sweaty? Stay Hydrated!Dr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. June 1, 2017
Here’s the Lowdown on When and What to Drink
You’re going to the gym to sweat buckets on a near daily basis, or perhaps you’re a frequent jogger. What drink do you consume to maintain hydration? A fluorescent coloured sports drink? Electrolyte beverage? A caffeinated soft drink? Sugar water? Red Bull? Glucose polymer? Fruit juice? Or just plain water? What about a few glasses of beer after exercise to rehydrate, or at least relieve the many aches and pains from exercise?
On Electrolytes and Peak Performance
An electrolyte is a mineral that contains an electric charge found in all bodily fluids. Examples are sodium, potassium, calcium, chlorine, phosphorus, and magnesium. They are essential to nerve, cardiac, and other muscle function. Deficiency can cause fatigue, spasm, cramps and pain. Normally, electrolytes are easily obtained from a well-balanced diet, but are lost in high amounts in our sweat while we exercise. (Sweat tastes salty because of the sodium lost from the body.)
High-intensity exercise in hot weather can easily make you sweat away two to four pounds of water (one to two quarts) in an hour. This causes body temperature to rise and performance to decline. If fluids are not consumed at regular intervals, the result may be heat stroke, organ damage, dehydration, or possibly death.
To avoid health hazards and maintain peak performance during exercise you should drink before, during, and after a workout. And if undertaking high intensity exercise like in tennis, soccer, basketball, or track and field, weigh yourself before and after to get a good idea of how much water weight is lost, then consume at least two cups of water for each pound lost. The body is made up of about 60% water and needs to be fully hydrated to perform optimally. When the outside temperature or humidity is especially high, the body requires even more water because it must work harder to cool itself.
Inadequate fluid replacement may be at the bottom of recurrent or chronic injuries as well as poor athletic performance results. A sub-optimal water intake will affect your speed, endurance, and strength. It can also cause dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps. Even a slight water deficit (about one litre) will slow blood circulation and reduce concentration.
And don’t depend on thirst to help you decide when to drink fluids. Thirst is a poor indicator of dehydration because you may already be dehydrated before your thirst mechanism kicks in. It’s best to start drinking before you feel thirsty and keep drinking even after your thirst is quenched if you are going to exercise strenuously for hours.
The best beverage is pure spring water. It’s the quickest fix for preventing or reversing dehydration, and easiest for the body to absorb. Long stretches of vigorous exercise (over 1.5 hours) repeated day after day, as in tournaments, will require replacement of not only water but also carbohydrates and the electrolytes sodium, magnesium, and potassium. This is where the specially formulated sports drinks come in.
How do you know if you’re drinking enough? Spot check your urine often to see how much fluid you really need. Urine should be as light or pale-coloured as possible and more frequent than when sedentary, to be on the safe side. The darker the urine, the more dehydration is present. The darker or more yellow the urine, the more water you need to replenish your fluid reserves.
Water, Sports Drinks, or Beer?
You may have seen the odd hockey, baseball, soccer or tennis player drinking beer after a game. Is this really a good way to replenish water and electrolytes lost during vigorous exercise? Beer’s alcohol content has a dehydrating effect that causes you to lose even more valuable fluids at a time when you should be replacing them. If you simply must drink beer, first quench your thirst with two or three large glasses of water. Ideally, have something to eat so that you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. Enjoying a beer or two in moderation in this fashion will at least help you wind down from the stress of a heavy exercise.
Sports drinks should only be used with vigorous exercise that lasts over an hour and a half. You do not need them after jogging for half an hour under pleasant weather conditions. Here is a quote from a recently published British Medical Journal paper: “Should people who exercise seek to proactively replace fluids lost, or can they rely on thirst to guide them during and after physical activity? And when they rehydrate, do they need all the salts, sugars, and other ingredients dumped into sports drinks, or is water fine? The correct answers are: best to rely on thirst, and water is fine. All that stuff that you’ve been hearing about replacing electrolytes and so on all these years? Never mind! The evidence doesn’t support it.”
The best thing I can say about most of the popular sports drinks on the market is that they are a good scam. If you have hypoglycemia or diabetes, these drinks can make blood sugar levels dangerously worse. Some of these drinks use aspartame or Splenda for sweetening, both of which are linked to obesity and diabetes.
The number one ingredient in most of the sports drinks on the market is high fructose corn syrup. In fact, Gatorade contains 14 grams of this simple disease-causing sugar for every eight ounces. Since a regular bottle of Gatorade contains 32 ounces, you are actually getting 56 grams of sugar.
These ‘sports’ drinks also contain brominated vegetable oil for unspecified reasons. Bromine displaces iodine and can be toxic to the thyroid gland. These formulas also contain food colourings and other potentially harmful additives. The dyes have been linked to hyperactivity and ADHD in children. Although these mainstream sports drinks do replace lost electrolytes, as discussed earlier, there are far healthier ways to do that.
I often see people drinking sports drinks while playing video games or watching TV. This could be dangerous. A single bottle of Gatorade contains 800 mg of sodium. This represents one third of the RDA for sodium. Excess sodium intake has been associated with high blood pressure and stroke risk.
Ideal Sports and Energy Drinks
If you need to use a hydration/energy drink, what should be in that mixture? Those who need such a drink are athletes who sweat profusely enough to warrant hydration beyond water. Examples include distance runners or those who play hockey, football, soccer, basketball, tennis and other vigorous sports, as well as anyone who sweats excessively during and after exercise.
People who use saunas on a regular basis usually will also need to replace nutrients and electrolytes lost during the detoxification process. This should help prevent muscle pain, spasms, and the fatigue that can occur after sauna therapies.
The ideal drink should not contain sugar in any form. Stevia is permissible because it has no impact on insulin and subsequent blood sugar or fat levels.
The mixture should definitely contain potassium and sodium. Other electrolytes and minerals that could be included are calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, chromium, chloride and phosphorus because these are often lost during vigorous exercise. Ginseng, hawthorn, beet root, vitamins B3, B6, B12 and C could also be in the mixture for maintaining energy and providing antioxidants that guard against damage to muscles and other organs stressed by heavy exercise.
Two products that meet these requirements are NAKA Pro-E2 and TriStar Hydration SupremacyBoth are powdered formulas that can easily be mixed into cold water and used as needed for strenuous exercise. These mixtures contain no sugar, calories, or harmful ingredients.
A description of each ingredient in the formula can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/nakaPro-E2
Guidelines for Hydration During Vigorous Exercise
The American College of Sports Medicine has created the following guidelines for hydration during vigorous exercise at athletic competitions:
- Drink plenty of water (1 to 2 cups) at least 15 minutes before an event, even if you are not thirsty. Never restrict fluids during exercise.
- During the event, drink 8 to 12 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes, regardless of thirst. Cold drinks are best because they are absorbed most rapidly.
- If your event, usually categorized by exercise physiologists as “vigorous exercise”, lasts under 1.5 hours, the only fluid replacement beverage likely needed is water. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime or a splash of juice for variety.
- Beyond 1.5 hours, you can benefit from one of the many sport drinks on the market. The drink should not exceed 8% carbohydrate by weight because more than that will slow absorption and may cause stomach cramps or nausea. To play it safe, dilute the sports drink by an equal amount of water.
- If you are an elite athlete and feel the need to replace both water and electrolytes, make your own sports drink by diluting any natural fruit juice beverage with an equal amount of water. Orange juice, grapefruit juice, and apple cider are excellent choices. Fruit juices, especially freshly squeezed, as effective as just about any commercial sports drink.
- Don’t drink anything with caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks, ‘energy drinks’) or alcohol, all of which have a dehydrating effect.
- Carbonated drinks of any kind should be avoided since these tend to make you feel full, making it difficult to drink enough.
- Drink 2 cups of water for every pound lost during the match. After exercise, choose carbohydrate-rich fluids such as juices that replace both water losses and muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) to enhance recovery.
So, keep moving and live longer but don’t forget to replace nutrients and electrolytes if you’re going to do lots of exercise and sports.
• America College of Sports Medicine Guidelines on Hydration: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9303999
• Compare Sports Drinks: https://www.cwu.edu/sports-nutrition/compare-sports-drinks
• BMJ papers on Gatorade: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2658915/
• Effects of too much Gatorade: https://tinyurl.com/ yegm8lc
• Ideal contents of a quality sports drink: https://tinyurl.com/ nakaPro-E2
• Study finds more than 24,000 chemicals in bottled water: https://tinyurl.com/mhya2qh
Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc, offers consultations on nutrition and natural remedies in Thornhill. He has recently retired from medical practice as a Complementary and Alternative medical practitioner and now strictly offers nutritional consultations. He is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and has also published several Canadian bestselling books, including Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. To see more of Dr. Rona’s articles, visit: www.highlevelwellness.ca and for appointments, please call (905) 764-8700; office located at: 390 Steeles Ave. W., Unit 19, Thornhill, Ontario