Monday, February 25, 2013

The Warm Weather Ninja: Dehydration

     Now that the weather is getting warmer, I wanted to take this opportunity to touch on a topic that many of us take for granted, but are all subject to. Dehydration. In my everyday job I assume  responsibility for the health needs of over 1000 athletes. A large part of this job is recognizing and combating dehydration. Even with all of my knowledge and training, I find myself falling victim to dehydration. When I get on the water all I care about is catching that big 'un, and usually completely ignore what's going on inside of me.

     Dehydration is defined as an excess loss of body water with accompanying disruption of metabolic processes. That means that when we spend eight hours on the lake in the Texas summer, and drink one bottle of water, we can do serious harm to our bodies. Most of the guidelines that my information comes from are based on fluid intake during exercise.  I know we all aren't world class athletes, but what we do is still considered exercise with prolonged exposure to the elements. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-www.acsm.org) recommends 20 oz. of water or sports drink before exercise, just to pre-load with fluids before loss begins. During exercise it is suggested that we drink 8 oz. of water every fifteen minutes to stay ahead of the game. Post exercise guidelines recommended that we replace any fluid lost during the day, especially before consuming any adult beverages.

     I bet we have all felt the results of dehydration at one time or another, but failed to recognize them. Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, feeling lightheaded, loss of appetite, dry mouth, dark urine, headache, and profuse sweating. When left untreated the more severe symptoms include extreme thirst, lack of sweating, little or no urination, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramping, dark colored urine, and vision impairment. You do not have to have all of these symptoms to be dehydrated, or to be in danger of becoming dehydrated. It only takes a few of these to be at risk. It is important for us remember and recognize these symptoms, then decide to stop and take a water break when it's warranted. In addition to the signs of dehydration, there are three progressive stages that we go through when dealing with heat illness. The first stage is heat cramps. These are mild to severe muscle spasms that usually start in the lower legs and move towards the head as your condition worsens. Heat exhaustion is the second stage of heat illness. The signs of heat exhaustion are headache, chills, dizziness, muscle cramps, extreme sweating, nausea, vomiting, and pale skin. The last stage is heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when all earlier warning signs have been ignored. The signs of heat stroke are altered consciousness, confusion, irrational behavior, and even death if left untreated.

     The age old debate of "water vs sports drink" is one that has plagued the sports medicine profession for years. While nothing beats the effectiveness of maintaining fluid levels with good, clean water, sometimes it's just not enough. If you're at the point where dehydration has begun to set in, the best choice is a well formulated sports drink to combat it. Although this discussion could go on forever, the benefits for sports drinks are as follows:

1. The pleasant taste encourages voluntary intake of fluids
2. Faster absorption
3. Improved performance & recovery
4. Replacement of required electrolytes & carbohydrates not found in water

     The main goal of kayak fishing is to have fun and stay safe while doing it. I hope that you walk away from this article with a better understanding of environmental conditions and a greater appreciation for what your body is telling you. I always carry a Lifestraw in my dry bag for emergency hydration situations. My Lifestraw can filter any fresh water source, and will definitely get you through a tough situation. If you prepare for the heat with proper pre-hydration and pay attention to your body's signals, you will maximize your time on the water and keep your health in top shape.




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