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Hydration: An Important Part of Exercise

Drinking water before, during, and after exercise can help prevent the nasty effects of dehydration.

On a recent run, the sun was beating down and the humidity was so high I could have been swimming along the sidewalk instead of running on it.

I was only planning on going three miles, so I felt there was no need to bring along the hand-held water bottle I usually reserved for longer distance runs. Every step felt heavy, like the gravity had been increased. Each time I raised a leg, it felt like it was crashing back down onto the pavement. I had to slow to a crawl and by the time I reached home, I was shaking and weak. My mouth and lips were dry and the muscles in my legs began to cramp.

Then the nausea set in.

I was unprepared and I had underestimated the weather. I was severely dehydrated and spent the next few hours on the couch sipping from a bottle of water praying for the cramping to end.

According to medicinenet.com, some of the signs of dehydration are dry mouth, muscle cramping, nausea, light headedness, and weakness. I had all the symptoms and it could have easily been prevented if I had gotten enough fluids throughout the day.

There are ways to avoid dehydration and its nasty affects:

Drink fluids throughout the day. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult needs to drink about 8 to 9 cups of water a day. Although, all fluids count and if you have a glass of Coke with lunch, that counts to your total for the day.

Limit or avoid coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, and alcohol.  These drinks are dehydrating, but if you’re like me and have to have your coffee, match each cup with an 8 ounce glass of water.

Begin drinking early. If you know you will be working out, begin drinking water early and keep at it throughout the day.

Take water with you when you exercise. There are a variety of devices that make running, walking, and biking with water easy and comfortable. You can choose from hand held 10 oz bottles, water waist belts, or CamelBak hydration packs. Find one that works for you and use it.

Drink before you feel thirsty. Continuously take small sips throughout your workout even if you’re not thirsty. Remember, by the time you feel thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated.

Drink plenty of fluids after your workout. Water is always great, but if you want to drink a sports drink such as a sports drink, that’s fine, too. Sports drinks can help replace the sodium and potassium your body loses during a good sweat session, but watch the sugar. Many contain high amounts of sugar and they can make you feel thirstier.

You’ll know if you’re getting enough fluids during the day. Two ways to tell: you rarely feel thirsty and you will be producing pale yellow to colorless urine fairly often throughout the day. Remember to up your intake if you plan on exercising.

The weather has been feeling less humid and sticky, but we still have hot days ahead like today. Beat the heat and improve your workouts by keeping hydrated.

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