Active Recovery & Hydration II – Staying Hydrated
How do I stay hydrated?
Your body can only maintain hydration if you are consuming more water than you are losing. In order to improve hydration, your body needs water … duh!
But, did you know that staying hydrated requires more than water??? It needs water in the presence of salt and sugar. This is the theory behind why Gatorade, Powerade, and other electrolyte drinks are better at restoring your fluid status than water alone.
Advantages of IV Fluids After Exercise or Post-Race
IV fluid goes straight into veins, which all lead to the heart. Once the fluid gets to the heart, it is disseminated throughout the body. Your body decides where the majority of nutrients are directed by dilating the arteries that lead to areas in need. In contrast, your body constricts and limits blood flow to areas that don’t need as much emergent blood flow.
Without appropriate hydration, your body restricts blood flow to vital organs until it becomes a problem. If the muscles are begging for blood, the arteries will dilate to the muscles while constricting blood flow to the bowels and kidneys. If you have less blood flowing through your digestive tract, you can consume as many protein bars as you want, but your body will not be able to receive those nutrients without appropriate blood flow. In addition, your body will be shunting blood away from the kidneys, which causes a build-up of toxins when there is inappropriate kidney blood flow. Dehydration causing kidney damage is called “Acute Kidney Injury” in medicine. The kidneys cannot filter without enough blood flowing through them.
With rapid rehydration using IV fluids, you are able to give your body the fluid that it needs to pump blood to your muscles and vital organs without starving any of them. It gives the kidneys ample fluid to filter, and it gives the muscles enough nutrients and water to regenerate.
Sweet and Salty – The Cure to Dehydration
The body’s cellular pumps that absorb water require a small amount of sugar and salt in order to adequately pull in the water. Your body is not very good at absorbing water. In fact, it rarely moves water around; instead, it absorbs salt and due to the laws of osmosis – water follows the salt. However, sugar is needed in order to power the salt pumps. Salt is also needed to hold onto that water that you just absorbed. Without salt, your body just makes dilute urine.
It is important to remember that sweat is the loss of water and electrolytes. This is why animals lick us when we are sweaty – they like the taste of salt. If you are replacing your fluid with water only, you are losing electrolytes without replacing them. This is why marathon runners and other endurance athletes can die during a prolonged race. Their salt levels can drop to dangerous levels without adequate replacement. This is called Hyponatremia.
How can I tell if I am hydrated?
Your urine is the best gauge of hydration status. If your kidneys are trying to preserve water, your urine turns dark orange like orange juice. They are telling you that you need to drink more water. If your urine is light yellow like lemonade, then you are adequately hydrated. You are keeping up with your water level.
How can I tell if I have enough salt?
There is no good way to determine salt levels on the go. It is important to speak with a professional before embarking on endurance races for prolonged periods of time in order to ensure adequate electrolyte intake. Too much salt can cause abdominal cramping, which will also put you out of the race.
How can I tell if I have enough sugar?
This one is fairly easy. You normally feel like crap if you don’t have enough sugar! This is called “bonking” or “hitting the wall” by most athletes. Luckily, your body can create its own sugar on the fly. If you are exercising beyond your body’s sugar production, you will ultimately develop cramps and muscle pains that require you to quit exercising. Then, your body’s sugar production will catch up to your sugar consumption.
You can also check your blood sugar level with a glucometer (or test strip), but if you are not diabetic, it is unlikely to be very useful. Your body normally feels symptoms of low blood sugar before the level drops.