Aaron Gilbert. Photo by William Lange

By Aaron Gilbert

When you are well-hydrated and conditions are awesome in your body, various processes preserve fluid and electrolyte balance. If you become dehydrated due to illness, stress, exercise, climate variations, supplements, foods or beverages, life-threatening imbalances may occur – major bummer.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • thirst
  • dry skin
  • fatigue and weakness
  • increased body temperature
  • muscle cramping
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • dry mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes)

Severe dehydration can also include:

  • muscle spasms
  • vomiting
  • dark urine
  • vision problems
  • loss of consciousness
  • kidney and liver failure


Exercise and Dehydration

During exercise, we need more water. The enhanced metabolic rate of muscle contraction requires a larger delivery of nutrients and oxygen along with faster waste and heat removal from the body – water makes this happen.

Loss of plasma volume during prolonged exercise by dehydration diminishes performance in part because of the associate reduction in stroke volume and increases in heart rate known as cardiovascular drift. So, to maximize your performance potential while exercising, stay hydrated.


If no fluids are going to be consumed during exercise, pre-hydrate with the following regimen:

  • 16 ounces of fluid on the night before exercise
  • 16 ounces of fluid in the morning
  • 16-30 ounces of fluid, 1 hour before exercise
  • 8-16 ounces 20 minutes before exercise

While dehydration is a concern, over-hydration or water intoxication is also something to watch for when consuming your fluids. Hyponatremia is a sodium electrolyte disorder that is associated with drinking excessive amounts of water that can result in death. EEK! Don’t be alarmed, cases are rare and you’d have to consume gallons and gallons of water in a relatively short amount of time for it to be a concern.


Tips for Avoiding Dehydration:

Be aware of thirst cues.

For men, an average of 16 cups or 128 ounces of water a day from fluid and non-fluid sources (e.g. fruits and vegetables) is adequate.

For women, an average of 11 cups or 88 ounces.

Keep in mind there is extreme variability in water needs based on climate and physical activity levels.

Consume nutrient-dense foods/beverages after exercise to assist in the re-hydrating process.

Those with a history of cramping and “salty sweat” should consider adding salt to foods/beverages after exercising (a quarter to half teaspoon).

For every pound of sweat lost during exercise, rehydrate with 2 cups of fluid.

Aaron Gilbert, CSCS, is founder/owner of Longevity Athletics.



This column appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.


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