Importance of Hydration - Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy
Monday July 6, 2020
by Dustin Briggs, ATC, CSCS, NRAEMT, FMS

As the weather begins to warm up even more we’re spending more time outside gardening, golfing, exercising, or other activities. Increased time outdoors in higher temperatures can lead to dehydration and heat illness.  Hydration is critical and often neglected even when conditions are not hot and humid.  With all things being equal the average adult needs somewhere between 80-120 ounces of water under normal everyday circumstances.  Many adults don’t drink enough water and supplement with pop, coffee, alcohol, or other beverages that cause further dehydration and performance issues. 

Pre-Hydration

When exercising in the heat, hydration starts well before the activity and should continue during and after.  Pre-hydration is arguably as or more important than during and post activity hydration.  If you begin an activity dehydrated it’s difficult to get ahead while engaged in an activity in the heat. Particularly if you are consuming other beverages containing caffeine or alcohol which increase urination and cause other physiological changes.

Fluid temperature influences the amount of the fluid consumed, especially in the absence of thirst. While individual differences exist, a cool beverage of 50° to 59°F is recommended.  To ensure proper pre-exercise hydration, we should consume approx 20 oz of water/sports drink 2 to 3 hrs before exercise and 7 to 10 oz of water/sports drink 10 to 20 min before exercise.  In many situations, people will benefit from including carbohydrates (CHOs) in their rehydration.

Hydrating with Carbohydrates

Consuming CHOs prior to exercise, about 30 minutes, may be beneficial.  Include CHOs during exercise if the session lasts longer than 45 to 50 minutes or is intense.  CHO concentrations should be between 6-8% (typically seen in Gatorade). Concentrations greater than 8% can upset your stomach.  Fruit juices, CHO gels, sodas, and some sports drinks that have CHO concentrations greater than 8% aren’t recommended as the sole fluid during an exercise session.  Conversely, water should not be over consumed as water intoxication can have deleterious effects on the brain and body.  A good balance of water, CHO beverages, and good nutrition is the most beneficial.

Dehydration

Additional factors which may contribute to dehydration and possible heat illness are obesity, lack of acclimatization, diet, clothing type, poor sleep habits, and length of activity.  Dehydration of 1% to 2% of body weight begins to compromise physiologic function and negatively influence performance.  Furthermore dehydration of greater than 3% of body weight further increases an individual’s risk of developing an exertional heat illness (ie, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke).  Another good way to measure dehydration is by looking at urine color.

In conclusion, consistent hydration and balanced nutrition with good sleep habits is most beneficial.  A marked water bottle or container to help calculate the amount of fluid consumed is a good choice for encouraging and tracking intake. 

Decreasing sugary and caffeinated beverages and increasing water consumption will help you move better and feel better. As always when you’re spending time outside if you experience any other movement issues please reach out to one of the movement experts at Kinetic Edge.