A Guide to Proper Hydration and Electrolyte Balance

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Now that the weather is getting warmer, we all need to remember the importance of monitoring our fluid intake. When it’s hot, you lose a lot of fluid through sweat. Among other things, this can result in a decrease in blood volume that would make it harder for your body to cool down. High humidity can also be a factor in preventing your body from cooling down by preventing sweat from evaporating. So if you’re exercising outside, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Exercise early in the morning or late at night when temperatures are quite low.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing made from a fabric that “breathes.”
  • Drink plenty of water before and during your workout.

How much water should I consume?

Muscle tissue is made up of more than 70% water and is very important for cellular activity, so make sure you consume plenty of water throughout the day. The more protein you eat in your diet, the more water you need to help flush out waste products like ammonia and urea. Sweating from a grueling workout will also cause you to lose more water. A good rule of thumb to follow to ensure you stay adequately hydrated is to multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.55. This will give you a good goal to aim for as to how many ounces of water to drink. For example, a 180-pound person would need to drink about 99 ounces of water a day. That’s about five 20-ounce bottles of water.

What about my electrolyte balance?

Electrolyte balance is crucial to many bodily functions. The primary electrolytes in the body are calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium, and they are actually considered macrominerals. Some examples of what can be caused by an electrolyte imbalance are:

  • Elevated potassium levels that could lead to cardiac arrhythmia
  • A decrease in extracellular potassium can cause paralysis
  • Excess extracellular sodium causes fluid retention
  • Decreased calcium can cause muscle spasms.

There are several drinks on the market right now that will help keep your electrolyte balance in check, Gatorade and Powerade being two popular examples. Drinking one of these after a strenuous workout can go a long way in replenishing electrolytes lost through sweating.

Hydration before exercise

If you know you’ll be exercising outside for an extended period of time, or perhaps playing a sport like basketball, soccer, football, etc., a good tip would be to start hydrating about 4 hours beforehand. Drink about 8 ounces of water every 10 to 15 minutes until about an hour before you start. Then drink another 16 ounces at the hour mark. Make sure you don’t drink anything for the last half hour, giving your body at least 30 minutes to absorb the water. During your exercise/play, be sure to continue to drink 8-10 ounces of water or an electrolyte drink, especially if it’s hot and humid.

As long as you make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day and replenishing your electrolytes after vigorous exercise, exercising outside won’t be a problem for you. Drink and enjoy the sun!!

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