Not enough? Too much? A little guidance please…

rain invading pondSpring has sprung in Chicagoland–or at least a reasonable facsimile.  While we could complain about below normal temperature, most of us choose to enjoy–and delve back into our favorite 3-5 month outdoor activity.  We may be a city divided in baseball allegiance by Cubs and White Sox (as a proud south-sider, I love the Sox–it’s go go White Sox and WHOEVER plays the Cubs) but most are aligned in their feelings about the seasons here.  Two of them to be exact; winter and construction..

With warmer weather (sort of) upon us, hydration becomes a key concern.  How much H20 should I be drinking?  Should I “load up” before heading to my favorite trail?  Do I really need a sports drink?  Should I be replacing what I lost post-exercise?  How much should I replace?  Should extreme heat be avoided when exercising outdoors?

Simple questions–diverse answers.

Water is essential to sustain life.  Few if any living organisms are able to survive without hydration.  Most of us grew up and still believe, 6-8 glasses of H20 a day is requisite for healthy living, as well as weight control.  Recent thought however, has cast some serious doubts on this.  There are also exceptions to the “more is better” philosophy of fluids.

One of those exceptions is chronic renal failure patients.  Fluid restriction for them is part of everyday living.  Without properly functioning kidneys, H20 as well as fluid based foods are always carefully measured.  Their hydration is a balancing act; too much (in part) means difficult breathing, elevated BP, and additional time on dialysis.  Too little means dehydration; like anyone else.

Too much H20 consumption can result in hyponatremia.  This term really translates into “dilution of sodium” in circulating blood volume.  Signs and symptoms can be easily overlooked.  However, there are ramifications for ingesting massive quantities of fluids.  They range from the mild (bloating, stomach upset, and discomfort with activity) to the extreme (brain swelling, elevated BP, & reduction of sodium sponsored electrolyte function).

Too little fluids, especially in extreme heat, also has dire consequences.  Elevated body temperature within itself is a concern.  Think in terms of your car.  There are many parts which enable it to run.  However, if the engine overheats–you have serious problems.  Likewise, if your brain overheats…well you get the idea.

The American College of Sports Medicine Certification Review, suggests the following:  400-600cc (14-22oz) 2-3 hrs before exercise.  During exercise, 6-12 oz is recommended.  For every pound of body weight lost post exercise, you should replace 16-24 oz per lb (it is suggested you weigh yourself pre-exercise, then post.  This will help you determine future fluid replacement goals)


Depending upon the activity, sports drinks are usually recommended for higher intensity exercises.  They are also recommended when exercising on very hot days.  Because they replace sodium, potassium, and glucose, longer duration activity such as long distance running and cycling, are among those where sports drinks are indicated.  These guidelines, like fluid suggestions, are also found in the ACSM certification review.

CONTROVERSY:  Drink it when you need it–no more no less.

There is a school of thought which states something quite astonishing:  Drink when thirsty.  That’s it.  The article is entitled “The Serious Problem of Overhydrating in Endurance Sports.”

I do like this article–yet as with any post, I must include my findings.

My exercise routines run the gauntlet.  Because of this, my hydration needs do as well.  What works for me is workout specific.  For example, if I am doing one of the INSANITY routines, I usually consume a small-regular bottle of a sports drink during the workout.  H20 works as well, but I feel more energized to do this routine with electrolyte replacement.  I don’t usually “load” ahead of time–and I drink H20 when thirsty afterwards.  If running or run-walking a 3-5 mile trail, I begin a 32oz sports drink (I’m not fussy about brands).  Since I don’t carry any fluids with me, I take a few more sips before heading out.  Once I return to my SUV, I normally finish the bottle.  Humidity and extreme heat, mean I finish half of the bottle if not more–before getting on the trail.

Hot yoga and ballet style workouts for me mean different hydration.  Hot yoga in particular, I find particularly grueling on electrolytes.  Since I break a sweat without much effort, a room at 98-105F even loosely packed, will have me pouring.  I start hydrating the night before, for a 9:30am class.  I start with about 1/2 a H20 bottle that evening.  In the morning, I will finish it, then “lock” or supplement my fluid intake with 1/4-1/2 of a 32oz sports drink.  I easily finish that bottle during a 70 minute class.  I carry a cooler with me, and before leaving the lot, I have started on my second bottle of electrolyte replacement.  That may mean any of the “smart H20” or sports drinks.  I usually finish about 16-32 oz before late afternoon.   The ballet style workouts I use, while difficult, are usually H20 only for me.


True enough–most of us are tougher than we realize.  A cooked brain however, doesn’t really care how far you can run, or how fast you bike.  If you are experiencing headaches, light-headedness, and feel overheated without sweating, it’s disconcerting; and dangerous.  Yes, I was “one of those” who felt invincible.  Quite humbling when someone has to wait with you, or go for H20 while you sit on the side of a trail.

My thoughts on hydration?  You must know how to interpret your body’s language.  It speaks to you all the time–but do you know what it is saying?  Just as thermostats in most households read between 55-95F, we realize that 75 in one home–could easily feel like 85 in another.

Need specifics?  Check out  “What to Drink for Proper Hydration During Exercise” offers helpful, straightforward guidelines.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions? Comments?  Contact me at

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