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Friday, October 18, 2013

How Should You Hydrate for Exercise?

What are you drinking?
Are you overwhelmed and confused by all the different options for hydration?

If you're like most people I run into you probably have quite a few questions regarding what's best.

With the barrage of so-called sports drinks, energy drinks, rehydrating formulas and every other type of highly marketed, specially formulated beverage that's promoted for those
 who exercise it's no surprise there is mass confusion amongst people about what's actually best for hydrating.

Like most things, the reality of hydration depends on many factors and therefore blanket recommendations, while perhaps a starting point, are not an end all and be all.  BTW the idea that everyone should drink 8 8oz glasses of water a day is not based on any actual scientific evidence.

Among the many factors which must  be taken into account regarding hydration are activity levels, environment, medications, age, current health and more.  For example, the older you are and the less tuned into your body you are (think couch potato desk jockey types) the less you can rely on your body to indicate when you should be hydrating.  On the other side of the coin there are people who are likely drinking too much plain water and in the process washing their bodies out to the point of dehydration and even more dangerous complications.  I remember a few years back here in the bay area a woman died trying to win an xbox in some crazy radio sponsored contest involving drinking as much water as possible without going to the bathroom.  Needless to say - you can have too much of a good thing.

Another one of the myths regarding hydration is that caffeine dehydrates you...this is only true in large doses.  Now this doesn't mean go load up on caffeine either, while it can help with workout performance if you consume it right before you exercise...their are obvious contraindications depending on the situation.  Not everyone is able to quickly process caffeine, and if you're one of those that cannot (I can do a genetic test to see but you can typically tell based on how caffeine affects you), you shouldn't be consuming much caffeine.

Junk food you do not need!

At the same time, keep in mind that a good number of people who follow the SAD (standard American diet) and PAL (pathetic American lifestyle) are very likely running around at least partially dehydrated most of the time.  These same individuals are your weekend warriors who think they need to guzzle down a Gatorade because they went on a 2 mile walk.  Wrong.  The last thing 99% of people should consume when it comes to hydration is sports drinks.  They are loaded with sugar (many in the form of high fructose corn syrup) along with colorings and who knows what other things that were never meant for human consumption.  Unless you are doing extended...over 1 hour of very strenuous exercise where you are sweating profusely you don't need any of the carb or phony sweetener loaded drinks.  Filtered water with a pinch of sea salt (not standard table salt) and some lemon will be plenty adequate to get you through.

Another one of the myths surrounding hydration is that your urine should be clear...actually it shouldn't be totally clear, as that can mean you're getting too much water.

The Best Option for Most

In summation...water with a bit of sea salt and some lemon is adequate for all but the most extreme workouts.  Stay away from all sports and energy drinks along with sodas...they do you no favors.  Of course your individual needs will vary so specifics for each person may vary widely and should be discussed with a highly knowledgeable doctor, nutritionist and or trainer.  None of these are easy to find and you have been warned that if you get the blanket type recommendation from one of these individuals it's a great indication they really don't know what they are talking about in this regard.

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