Alright. We've all heard it: drink plenty of water! drink more water! thirst is often confused for hunger. drink water instead. Drink, drink, drink! Never be more than an arm's length away from some refreshing water! Drink smart water. Drink skinny water (seriously?). Drink vitamin water.
Ok. Not really. that smart, skinny, and vitamin stuff is just BOGUS. One of my favourite commercials on tv now is one where there are a buncha girls playing soccer and the coach tries to get them to drink some sugary crap-laden beverage. one smart
except that it isnt' that easy.
we've all heard about dehydration. who has ever heard of over-hydration, known medically as 'hyponatremia'? Although not as big a problem with the general population (think: chip eaters), athletes can be prone to this condition. Let's take some time here to learn a bit about it, how it can impact you, and what you can do to help prevent it. (short version: balance).
The most basic definition of hyponatremia is 'low salt levels in the blood stream'. Salt is essential to live. It serves many purposes in the body from transporting water into and out of cells to nerve conduction. Water 'follows' salt, too. What? Yep. If salt leaves your body (urine, sweat), water goes, too. If you take in too much salt (Chinese food, bar snacks), you drink more (or at least your body wants you to drink more). This is one reason that people with high blood pressure are often told to limit salt. It willlimit water (fluid) retention and thus lower blood pressure.
Let's assume that you, as an athlete, eat the 'proper' amount of salt for YOU. With your normal intake of nutrients and water, your body enjoys a nice balance. Now you workout/run/whatever. Sweat your thorns off. Just drippin' wet all over the place. You drink water. Lots of it. But then you don't feel so good later. Kinda spacy, maybe a little clumsy, disoriented. Not a dehydration headache (ouch! been there!), but just not right. So you drink more water. Why not, right? Welll.....
If you replace water without replacing salt (and other electrolytes like potassium), you run the risk of hyponatremia. You create a dilution in your blood that has a very low concentration of (let's say) salt. Not good.
I learned about this the tough way. I was on a training exercise with the military at Ft. Somewhere, and we got a call for a medivac for a soldier who had gone down in the field. We all suspected dehydration, so we pumped him full of IV fluids. FAST. he was disoriented, slow to move; we were getting a bit nervous. then after we found out that he hadn't eaten ANYTHING yet that day, and had been drinking water by the gallon....we put the two together. yikes. a tough lesson all around, but especially for that Joe. he'll not make that mistake again in a hurry.
So how do we avoid or prevent it? Balance. Experiment. There are almost as many 'sports drinks' out there as there are readers of this blog. ok. wait. maybe that should be reversed. anyway, there are only a handful that are actually WORTH anything to your body. Mostly they are worth something to the company's bottom line, and not to your health. shame, but true. I am not going to badmouth any specific brands (Powerade would get really mad at me if I did. So would vitamin water.) (whoops). and they aren't the only ones. Here's my most basic tip. READ THE LABELS. Electrolytes are important to replenish here, NOT things like HFCS, SUCROSE, SUCRALOSE, ORANGE DYE #5, etc, etc....just DON'T do it.
I have found that a product called NUUN works well for me. My son (5), loves it. I dilute it a bit for him, but he really likes the lemon lime and triberry flavors. I don't work for Nuun, but i do like their product, their company, and their engagement with amateur athletes, so i don't mind talking them up.
I also like GU Chomps, but if i eat while running, i tend to choke, so.....i need more practice.
CLIF Bar makes a CLIF SHOT that is pretty good, too, and comes in all sortsa flavors.
Optimize your intake for maximum output. Simple. The more you know about the way your body works and what works for your body, the better off you will be. I welcome suggestions for other topics as well.
If you want to watch a video from Web MD on the topic, click here.
Thanks for reading.