Monday, June 24, 2013

Stay Safe, Stay Hydrated

Summer Solstice really snuck up on me. Maybe because it's been very summer-like here in Vegas for awhile now. :) Maybe not. Really, June is just flying by! I thought the Solstice was still weeks away until I saw a flurry on my social media feeds. Oops!

Now, that summer is officially here, let's talk about staying hydrated.

Ever ask a runner (or any athlete, for that matter) for tips on beating the hot heat of summer? If so, you probably heard choruses of STAY HYDRATED!

What does that mean? Is it really as simple as drinking lots and lots of water? Unfortunately, I don't think so.

When you think of staying hydrated, you probably first think of avoiding dehydration. And this is super important, but I'd like to discuss the other extreme today - overhydration.

According to Merck, an average adult with normal kidney function would need to drink roughly 6 gallons of water a day regularly in order to exceed the body's ability to excrete water.

But let's be honest.
We're not average or normal. 
We're runners! :-)

We defy logic. Sometimes. LOL.

Seriously, though. Overhydration is a real threat for those of us who dabble with endurance sports during the summer (or anytime, really).

BEWARE: Overhydration is also a bit more common in back-of-the-pack runners, who have more time to drink to excess.

Like I said before, staying hydrated is more than just drinking lots of water. It's also about, and this seemed kind of weird to me, maintaining healthy levels of sodium and potassium. Without getting too technical, these two minerals help regulate water and acid-base balance in our blood and tissues. For example, sodium helps prevent too much water from seeping into the cellular fluid surrounding our cells. If this fluid gets too diluted with water, it could have serious negative effects - like bursting cells.

So scary!

Let's stay safe and hydrated out there!

Avoiding overhydration:
  • Drink small amounts of water. You should never feel full of water, but just drink to make your mouth feel wet.
  • Eat 1/2 a banana before your workout to help with potassium levels.
  • Choose a fuel for your workout that contains both sodium and potassium.

Signs to watch out for:
  • Minor swelling in your hands
  • Stomach sloshing
  • Poor absorption of food
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Confusion

For most runners, levels of sodium/potassium and water will likely even out after a post-workout meal. I guess this is probably why most races I've finished offer bananas and potato chips as part of the post-race goodies. :-) If you experience lots of these signs you may want to consider slightly increasing your sodium/potassium intake and/or decreasing your water. Just remember not to take either to the extremeIf any of these signs become severe, please seek medical assistance.

Staying properly hydrated and fueled during our runs (or intense workouts) is essentially for getting the most of out of them and enjoying the summer to the fullest.

Stay Safe. Stay Hydrated.

Sources on overhydration:

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  1. Great post Clarinda! It's so important to talk about overhydration in runners since so many of them don't know about it. Especially the new ones.

    1. I agree. I think it's too often overlooked, and too easy to only focus on drinking more water.

  2. Great post! I never would have thought about it!

  3. Great advice for these summer months - especially in the hotter climates.