Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Summer is right around the corner and so are the heat and outdoor activities. Warmer days and sunshine are great contributors for bringing more and more people to the outdoor environment and exercising either alone or in groups. Whether you love or hate training, running, racing or swimming in the sunny heat, making sure you are always properly hydrated and with your electrolytes replenished is a must.
But with so many options for ‘hydration’, it seems that simply saying “stay hydrated” or “drink fluids” doesn’t really cut it anymore. The more people become active and practice sports or physical activities, the more that industry evolves in itself. Sports Nutrition has been on a constant and exponential growth being backed up by science and studies each and everyday now. Some might feel very overwhelmed by the amount of options on the market today in terms of supplements and replenishing drinks.
In this article, I want to explore what ‘staying hydrated’ really means and how you can tailor what product you will consume based on your specific needs going into another summer season of fun and outdoor experiences.
So, Summer is almost here. What are some cautions we should take when exercising outdoors and how do we prevent things such as dehydration, cramps and tiredness/weakness while playing outside?
As more people seem to get more active during summer days and choose activities such as running, biking, outdoor yoga, swimming, frisbee, soccer, baseball, and etc, the search for electrolyte replacement drinks and supplements tends to grow as well. With the amount of options available today, it becomes very frustrating to pick something when you don’t quite understand what exactly you should be looking for in terms of recovery and rehydration. I will try to help you understand a little more about sports drinks and how you can pick and choose what option is best for you. To start off, let’s talk about the main things you should be considering in your workout/activity.
One of the first and main things that should be considered is the duration of your activity. How long is your outdoor activity or workout? You need to take that into consideration to understand if you are actually losing too much liquid and electrolytes in order to know how to properly rehydrate. It’s important to know that during exercise the body’s thirst mechanism is less sensitive than at rest, making an approach to fluids important especially when working at a higher intensity and warmer environments. That means that it’s highly recommended to properly hydrate not only after a workout/activity but also during it.
As RD Stevie Smith would put, “As an athlete, you can choose a variety of products to fuel and these should be balanced with a plan that incorporates fluids. While solid foods and highly concentrated carbohydrates can be an appealing fuel choice, they can reduce the absorption of fluids. Grabbing a sports drink is ideal to help to meet both fluid and carbohydrate needs while keeping blood sugars stable through your training session or race.”
Proper hydration is key in regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, and transporting nutrients throughout your body. When we exercise, we increase our hydration demand because of our sweat rate and thereby making our pre-, mid-, and post-workout hydration essential.
Here are some tips to make sure you stay Properly Hydrated during your Spring and Summer activities:
I personally hate going into a workout already feeling like I won’t perform to my highest standards so I like to make sure that my pre-workout meal and fluid intake are always ideal.
Heading into a workout already at a fluid deficit can negatively impact not only the duration at a high intensity level but also the performance that you’re able to achieve in a workout. Drinking about 500 mL (~17 ounces) of water or electrolyte drinks around 2 hours before a workout promotes adequate hydration.
Start drinking early in your session! The aim is to drink enough fluid to account for what’s lost from sweat. Performing a simple sweat test can help you determine what your exercise sweat rate is. As studied before, if you’re training in hot, humid, or sunny conditions - Summer time for example - your sweat rate will increase, along with your fluid needs. Environmental heat stress can challenge the limits of human cardiovascular and temperature regulation, body fluid balance, and thus aerobic performance.
During a two hour swim session, I probably go through 1L or more of sports drinks, which would be the equivalent to 34 fl.oz., and that’s only DURING the workout, not considering what I drink before and after! During summertime I’d say that quantity of Electrolyte Replacement drinks would even double for me.
That same study suggests that for exercise and activities over one hour, these fluids should include both carbohydrates and electrolytes, specifically sodium. Aiming for 600-1200 mL of sports drink that contains 4-8% carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose levels and delay fatigue, plus 500-700mg of sodium per liter to replace sweat losses and prevent hyponatremia.
Most people tend to drink insufficient amounts of fluid post-workout session to make up for their sweat losses. They simply don’t know better or don’t give it enough importance. But this is an important time to rehydrate! If you’re recovering from (or prepping for) a big session or hot conditions, staying on top of your fluid intake during the day is extremely important. A simple way to assess this is your urine color in the morning -- straw or lemonade color is a sign of hydration while dark urine is indicative of inadequate hydration.
After a long session of swimming I always make sure I am properly hydrating for the next day, as I want to keep my recovery rate at optimum level for my following workouts. I also like to carry a bottle with me everywhere I go so if not drinking a sports drink, you’ll probably see me chugging water all day.
Summer and warmer days are upon us and that means more sweating, especially in our training sessions! I suggest you try as hard as you can to stay on top of your fluid intake because it will not only prevent potential health complications, but also help you make the most out of your training sessions. Most importantly, be aware of the early signs of dehydration and listen to your body.
In case you are like me and like to practice sports or physical activities on a daily basis, there are also electrolyte replacement products available that are low-sugar and low-calories. Hydra-Guard Sports Drink for example is a great way of replenishing your essential electrolytes after a workout but keeping the calorie count low and consuming only 5g of natural sugars per bottle. You could use the code JOAO10 for a special discount on their website, and I also recommend you to subscribe to their newsletter because they are always releasing special codes for even higher discounts on their products.