Having participated in endurance events for several years, I have been aware of the dangers of becoming dehydrated, especially during long events. Add in the heat and humidity of a South Carolina summer and staying hydrated is not only a challenge but an art form as well. Too little of the correct fluid can lead to cramps, dizziness, muscle soreness and a host of other issues.
Working off of basic common science regarding hydration, one must ingest plenty of water. While this is definitely true, the amount of water and the timing of consumption are critical. On average, anyone participating in 40+ minutes of cardio activity each day should consume a minimum of 80 ounces of water a day! This is on top of fluids lost to perspiration during exercise.
Most athletes fall well short of this goal. It should also be noted that the 80 ounce mark is pure water, as beverages such as tea and coffee do not count and in many cases act as a diuretic that actually flush more fluids out of the system than they replace.
So what about fluid intake during exercise? While logic would seem to dictate that drinking water during exercise, especially longer sessions over an hour is a good idea, this is not the case. In fact, consuming water during endurance activities such as running and biking, especially in the heat and humidity of summer can actually be dangerous and harm your performance.
There are two major reasons consuming water during heavy endurance exercise is not a good idea. When you are working out and sweating, you are draining your body of sodium and potassium. These are key elements your body requires in proper amounts to keep muscles functioning properly and to keep you from cramping. When you take in water to replace fluids lost to perspiration, you are not only not replacing lost sodium, potassium and sugars; you are further diluting the blood stream that can accelerate cramping and other issues.
Your muscles operate on sugars to perform. As you exercise, your muscles burn sugar in the form of glucose as energy. As the exercise continues, sugars are used as energy and to maintain a high level of effort, you need to replace these sugars. When consuming water, the energy source is not replaced and not only do you run the risk of cramping, your performance will degrade quickly until energy is replaced.
So what is the answer? Replacing water with a high quality sports drink will go a long way towards delaying or eliminating the severity of cramping and performance degradation. Power Bar Perform or Gatorade Endurance are two of the best sports drinks to consume during exercise. They have a scientific blend of sugars that release from the stomach at different times to help ensure a steady stream of fuel to your muscles. They also have a good mixture of sodium and potassium as well.
One other benefit of sports drinks is they trigger the thirst mechanism which helps you ingest more fluid whereas water quenches thirst so you run the risk of not consuming enough of the right fluids.
HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. He is a member of the 2015 QT2 Systems Advanced Team.