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Published on April 22nd, 2012 | by Papa Doc

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A Tall Drink of Water

One of the things I notice often in derby is the neglect of properly hydrating during practice and bouts. The intensity of the game tends to reduce the time for and the thought of hydrating the body.

Of course your circulation is critical to your life. The adult human body is about 70% water, actually a bit more in women. The vital cellular processes that keep us alive and healthy depend on a watery milieu to function properly. For example, the muscles work by transport of electrolytes and calcium in and out of the muscle cells to contract well. Without adequate hydration, your muscles don’t perform at maximum level and are more prone to cramping. The transport of heat (see previous article on heat injury), nutrients, oxygen and carbon dioxide, minerals, and hormones depends on the flow of blood to all areas of the body. You can easily see that adequate hydration of the body and circulation is important to all you do, including skating.

Hydration (maintaining the proper water content of the body) is the means for ensuring adequate circulation and cellular water. Hydration is achieved by balancing the fluid loss from the body and the fluid gain to the body. Fluid loss occurs from the normal processes of urination, breathing, and sweating. There are abnormal losses that occur from vomiting, diarrhea, severe bleeding, fever, excessive sweating, and excessive urination from caffeine intake or diabetes. The normal losses from sweating and respiration are increased by hot environments and heavy muscular activity. In order to participate in a demanding sport such as derby, you have to balance the losses with an adequate gain of fluid. This article will be concerned with the normal conditions of loss, with only a brief mention of the treatment of abnormal fluid losses (a full article in itself).

Pre-hydration is a must for successful competition because you want to start ahead of the game, not behind. Drinking 24 ounces of fluids 2 – 3 hours before and another 8 ounces right before exercise provides the foundation. The type of fluid does make a difference and should be non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic, non-carbonated fluids that supply water at first and, later, water and electrolytes. Water alone is an appropriate choice for the pre-hydration and the first hour or two of exercise.

Although pre-hydration is essential, the fluid intake must be maintained during exercise. As noted, for the first hour or two, water alone is sufficient. After that, electrolyte-containing, low sugar fluids such as non-caffeinated sports drinks and coconut water are good choices. During moderate to heavy exercise, about 3/4 to 1 quart of fluids per hour, consumed in frequent small amounts (usually 8 oz every 20 minutes) is needed in temperatures over 78℉. At lower temperatures, you may only need a 1/2 – 3/4 quart per hour. The maximum water intake recommended is 12 quarts a day. Under hydrating is usually more of a problem than over hydrating; although with really excessive water intake, you can induce a serious condition that is called “water intoxication”(basically, internal drowning of your cells in excess water).

The most important electrolytes to supply are sodium (salt) and potassium. Salt is obtained through salting foods and eating salty foods when exercising. When not exercising regularly, a lower salt diet is preferred. Salt tablets are not usually recommended. Potassium is ingested through a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts (e.g., almonds, bananas, cantaloupes, coconut water and tomatoes). Sports drinks should have 15 – 30 meq/liter of sodium and 2 -5 meq/liter of potassium. Low sugar concentrations (5 – 7%) are advised because of concern for excess weight gain but also because higher levels of sugar intake can induce diarrhea.

You can “measure” your level of hydration in two simple ways. First, your urine should be pale yellow to clear. Second, weigh yourself before and after exercise. With adequate fluid intake, you should not lose more than 2% of your body weight after exercise. You should replace any weight loss over 2% found this way by drinking about 24 oz of water for each pound lost.

In situations of abnormal losses (diarrhea, vomiting, and others listed above), the important key is to treat the cause when possible. This is often something you need to consult a doctor about. At the same time, the abnormal losses must be made up ounce for ounce while continuing to supply replacement of normal losses.

Hydrate well, and you’ll skate well!

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