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There have been a few times that after a workout that I've gotten dehydrated. Are there preventive steps to dehydration that can be done before/during the workout?

If, after the workout or during the workout I notice that I'm dehydrated, what are some ways to combat dehydration?

Some things I'm specifically looking for clarification of:

  • Are some drinks better than others? Is there a best?
  • Does combating dehyrdation solely mean drinking? Are there foods that can be helpful?
  • Is the environment surrounding me key?
  • Is sleeping/napping afterwards helpful?
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Please clarify. What is your workout? Proper hydration depends on the individual, the particular workout, the workout intensity, and the temperature (environmental) conditions. As an example, in my case, being properly hydrated depends on whether I'm doing an endurance cycling workout vs. strength training in the gym (+/- whether the surrounding temp is hot/cold). –  wdypdx22 May 9 '11 at 19:31
    
While I agree that every workout and every person is different with each situation, do we really need to worry about the specificities of this type of topic? I'm looking for a general approach as I'm a runner, go to the gym, live in hot AZ, vacation in cold CO, etc,. @wdypdx22 –  KronoS May 9 '11 at 19:56
    
You live and workout in hot, dry AZ. I live and workout in rainy, cool, OR. Our hydration needs are different. Of course we need enough H2O, and we also need a good electrolyte balance. –  wdypdx22 May 9 '11 at 20:32
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+1 very good question and very important issue to address. –  Evan Plaice May 10 '11 at 5:41
    
Wow this question is attracting some nice answers :-) –  Ivo Flipse May 10 '11 at 22:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The best treatment for dehydration is prevention, be sure to drink enough water throughout the day. One easy way to tell if you are starting to get dehydrated is your urine. If it's clear to light yellow then you are hydrated, colors darker than that indicate dehydration.

  • Are some drinks better than others? Is there a best?

Water is best to stay hydrated. However sports drinks during/after exercise are acceptable.

  • Does combating dehyrdation solely mean drinking? Are there foods that can be helpful?

Here is a list of foods that contain a high amount of water. Examples include watermelon, tomatoes, and bananas.

Note that food intake will only amount to approximately 20% of your daily water intake, which means that you need to get the other 80% through drinking.

One note about salt,

According to Dr. Roberts, the need for salt is exaggerated, since the average runner actually loses very little salt during a one- or two-hour run. "As long as you have some salt in your diet, there is probably not a huge need to have salt in your fluids," he says.

  • Is the environment surrounding me key?

No, it's not key but it is a factor. Exercising in humidity is absolutely harder on your body because the sweat you produce does not evaporate which doesn't effectively cool your skin. Since your body doesn't cool off, you continue to sweat!

Note that it does not have to be hot to be dangerous:

Performance drops and heat injury becomes a real threat. Deaths have occurred when the air temperature was less than 75 degrees F (24 degrees C) but the relative humidity was above 95%.

  • Is sleeping/napping afterwards helpful?

No. After a workout your body still needs water to get rehydrated which could take hours. Sleeping means you aren't drinking!

Resources/Links

Read more on dehydration with this FAQ.

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Very good answer. –  KronoS May 9 '11 at 19:58
    
I would disregard what Dr. Roberts says. Last week I went for a rough steep 2 1/2 hour hike in the late afternoon Souther California sun and ended up slightly dehydrated even though I drank water before and drained a whole camelback along the way. I licked the top of my wrist just to get an idea of how much I had sweat and it tasted as salty as the ocean. Environmental conditions and the amount of perspiration can have a huge impact. Plus, it's important to replenish salt and potassium as both are necessary for a healthy balance. –  Evan Plaice May 10 '11 at 5:40
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Licking yourself is not a great method of determining how much salt you have lost. –  victoriah May 16 '11 at 11:17
  • Water (H2O) is best for hydration
  • The more you sweat, the more water you'll need to drink to stay hydrated

It helps to drink glass of water about an hour before your workout, and then to drink small amounts of water throughout the entire workout. You may even want to drink another glass after the workout depending on how you feel.

Here are a couple links to articles that discuss how much water to drink in a day: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283

http://www.ehow.com/way_5189095_much-water-should-drink_.html

A factor that really effects how much water you need and your level of dehydration is the amount of Salt/Sodium in your diet. Personally, I have found that I am much less likely to feel dehydrated if I limit the amount of salt I take in.

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my wife and her friends are ultra-marathoners and bicyclist. They can get very very ill if they do not ensure ingestion of electrolytes. You need to make sure you ingest both electrolytes and water. Lots and lots of water, but they often take electrolyte pills when they are doing their more severe workouts. –  Kortuk May 9 '11 at 7:47

Keep in mind that prevention is the best strategy here. By the time you recognize the symptoms of dehydration, your body has already been dehydrated for some time. Your body can actually be dehydrated without actually showing the symptoms of dehydration.

Here are some tips for preventing dehydration:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Schedule fitness activities in the morning/evenings to avoid the heat of the day.
  • Try to perform fitness activities in a shaded area.
  • If one cannot change the schedule of the activities or workout in a shaded area, drink more water than normal to combat the effects of dehydration.

Source: http://www.medicinenet.com/dehydration/page5.htm#toch

Heat related conditions: Know the signs and symptoms of heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Preventing dehydration is one step to avoid these conditions.

I want to emphasize how important it is to prevent dehydration. Although it's great that you're asking how to treat dehydration, it's important that you don't rely on treatment alone. People who have had heat injuries previously are more likely to have a heat injury in the future. Thus, the healthier you stay now, the less likely you are to become a victim of a heat injury in the future.

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Water isn't your only concern

To hydrate properly it's important to restore water and electrolytes. Especially if you're doing strenuous exercise in a hot environment where you sweat a lot.

Electrolytes are important to replenish because, if you don't you can become water drunk and potentially die.

By electrolytes I mean salt and potassium. Gatorade is a popular sports drink because it replenishes not only water but also salt and potassium (even if it does have too much sugar). You can find other powder mixes to replace electrolytes such as Emergen-C elector mix or you can make your own with salt and mortens diet salt (which is pure potassium). Google around to find the correct ratios.

Dehydration usually starts rearing it's ugly head with an irritable personality and headache followed by light-headed-ness. If you get that far you're in trouble and should do everything you can to find a source of water to drink.

It's not only how much you drink but how you drink

It's also important to sip water when you drink it. If you drink too much too fast your body doesn't have the time to properly absorb so you urinate a lot of it out. I always hear people use the 8 glasses as a hard and fast rule. If you chug 8 glasses of water a day you aren't necessarily gaining the benefits. Plus, how much water you require depends largely on your environment. Too much in a cold environment will make you pee a lot because your body is conserving the energy that would otherwise be wasted warming excess water in your bladder. To little in a hot environment and your skin won't be able to perspirate properly leading to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Way too much in any environment and you could die.

Sometimes dehydration has less to do with water and more to do with what else you drink

What most people don't realize is that coffee, tea, and anything containing caffeine are diuretics. A diuretic is basically a compound that makes you urinate a lot and thus lose more water mass than you would normally.


Here are the hard and fast rules I was taught by my wilderness instructors before a 25 day pack hike across the Superstition Wilderness (desert) and Tonto National Forest (desert) that I have lived by for over the past 9 years.

If you're healthy and don't suffer from any adverse conditions (like asthma) exercise should feel good (maybe difficult but still good). If you feel any sort of ache or pain, drink water. If you're in a bad mood, drink water. If you feel at all abnormal or there is anything wrong with you, drink water.

You are made from water and water cures everything (within reason). Sip it so you don't waste it and don't take it for granted and you'll be alright.

Also, don't forget your electrolytes. Even if you get them from munching on a few dehydrated banana chips.

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