With temperatures soaring into triple digits on the warmest Central Valley days, it’s imperative for everyone – not just serious athletes – to stay hydrated. But is water really the best way to keep cool?
In hot weather, the body works harder to dissipate heat by sweating more. Replenishing by drinking a 1/4 to 3/4 cup of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes is recommended, said Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at UC Davis and a senior lecturer in the department of nutrition.
If you’re staying outside for an hour or less, water is a good choice, Applegate advises. But if you’re active for more than an hour, you should consider drinking sports drinks. They include simple sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose that can keep you energized during your activity. They also contain small amounts of electrolytes like sodium, potassium and calcium that may be lost through sweating.
The brand usually doesn’t matter, because major ones such as Gatorade and Powerade contain roughly the same amount of sugar and electrolytes. If you’re planning to exercise for one or two hours, you should aim for about 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour; if it’s more than two hours, she recommends 30 to 60 grams.
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For those who don’t want to pay for sports drinks, the same effects can be achieved by drinking water and eating a few pieces of dried fruit, Applegate said. As for electrolytes, people’s usual diets often contain enough salt to replenish during the day, even with exercise.
Thirst is a good guide for knowing how much to drink, Applegate said. People should generally have about five full bladders of urine a day that is the color of light lemonade, she added.
Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, managed by the Centers for Disease and Control. Those outside in the sun should monitor their body for signs of dehydration, which include lightheadedness, clammy or flushed skin, fatigue, nausea and a rapid heart rate.
If you think you might be suffering from heat exhaustion, find a shady area to sit down and drink juice, a sports drink or water with fruit.
But beware – overhydration, though rare, can happen. Drinking about two to three cups of water every 10 minutes can result in overhydration, symptoms of which include headache and lightheadedness.
Applegate also cautioned people to acclimatize to the weather before doing strenuous amounts of exercise. People arriving in Sacramento for the summer from cooler areas should increase their physical activity incrementally.