Summer is a good time to get things done at KCTCS—the decreased student traffic and warm weather has a lot of us busy catching up on to-do lists at work and at home before the fall semester begins. We all want to be healthy for the first day of the new school year, so one key to safely making it through another hot Kentucky summer is hydration. Staying hydrated isn’t as simple as just drinking something when you’re thirsty.
Keep water on hand and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. A dry mouth and feelings of thirstiness are indicators that you are already experiencing low levels of dehydration. Pay attention to how well your muscles are performing. Muscles are over 75% water, and muscle fatigue can be caused by even low levels of dehydration. If objects begin to feel heavier and you are having a little more difficulty moving around, then it’s time to rest indoors or in the shade with a cool glass of water.
Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar. These types of drinks cause your body to lose more fluid and can contribute to dehydration.
Take frequent breaks. Don’t work to the point of near-exhaustion before sitting in the shade—you will get more work done if you pace yourself and work smarter, not harder.
Wear light weight, loose-fitted, light-colored clothing. Also, those wide-brimmed straw hats at the Hardware Store go a long way to protect you from the sun’s heat (and cancer-causing UV rays) whether or not they complement your wardrobe.
Limit strenuous outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
Water is one of the most essential components of the human body. Water regulates the body’s temperature, cushions and protects vital organs, and aids the digestive system. Water not only composes 75 percent of all muscle tissue and about 10 percent of fatty tissue, it also acts within each cell to transport nutrients and dispel waste. And, because water composes more than half of the human body, it is impossible to sustain life for more than a week without it.
Necessary to the healthy function of all internal organs, water must be consumed to replace the amount lost each day during basic activities. In 2004 the Food and Nutrition Board released new dietary reference intakes for water. It is recommended that women consume 2.7 liters (91 oz) daily and men consume 3.7 liters (125 oz) through various beverages (80%) or in food (20%). Active individuals need even more, particularly if they’re exercising in hot weather. This is especially important during the 24 hours prior to vigorous exercise. You can meet your body’s water needs over the course of a day through a variety of fluids and foods including juices, soda, smoothies, tea, lemonade, soups, fruits and vegetables.
In one hour of exercise the body can lose more than a quart of water, depending on exercise intensity and air temperature. If there is not enough water for the body to cool itself through perspiration, the body enters a state of dehydration.
For regular exercisers maintaining a constant supply of water in the body is essential to performance. Dehydration leads to muscle fatigue and loss of coordination. Even small amounts of water loss may hinder athletic performance.
In a dehydrated state the body is unable to cool itself efficiently, leading to heat exhaustion and possibly heat stroke. Without an adequate supply of water the body will lack energy and muscles may develop cramps. To prevent dehydration, exercisers must drink before, during and after the workout.
Fluid Balance and Replenishment
It is important to drink even before signs of thirst appear. Thirst is a signal that your body is already on the way to dehydration. It is important to drink more than thirst demands and to continue to drink throughout the day. One way to check your hydration level is to monitor your urine. It should be plentiful and pale yellow unless you are taking supplements, which will darken the color for several hours after consumption.
During exercise, water is the best fluid replenisher for most individuals, although sports drinks help replace lost electrolytes during high intensity
exercise exceeding 45 to 60 minutes.Individuals who sweat profusely during exercise and whose sweat contains a high amount of sodium (you may notice salt stains/rings on your athletic wear) should choose sports drinks and ensure that their diet contains adequate sodium to prevent hypothermia (water intoxication).
Contrary to popular belief, scientific evidence suggests that moderate caffeine intake does NOT compromise exercise performance or hydration status. However, alcohol consumption can interfere with muscle recovery from exercise and negatively affect a variety of performance variables.
If you are interested in information on other health and fitness topics, contact: American Council on Exercise, 4851 Paramount Drive, San Diego, CA 92123 or, go online at www.acefitness.org and access the complete list of ACE Fit Facts.
Drinking enough of the right kinds of fluids is important whether you spend most of your time working indoors or outdoors, and good hydration is not just for hard physical labor and activities that involve a lot of physical activity. That being said, being under-hydrated is especially dangerous, even deadly, if you are working hard under the hot sun. The following tips to stay cool and hydrated will serve you well for work and play in the summer months: