Heat and Hydration

 In General

Heat and Hydration

It is that time of year in Georgia. From now until about September, if there was one thing that defines southern Georgia, that word would be HOT. The human body is made up of mostly water and keeping it well hydrated is very important for your health. When an athlete has a heat injury it tends to make the news, especially if the athlete dies. Heat injuries can involve getting cramps, feeling nauseous and having headaches, seizures and other nuisance symptoms but extremes can result in your body overheating, destroying organs and even death. Athletes are at more risk because their athletic activity involves the generation of heat as a by product of their muscle activity. They appear to be more newsworthy as well. Do non-athletes have heat injuries? You betcha. Non athletes are at more risk because their lack of fitness does not condition their bodies to get rid of excess heat as efficiently as an athlete can.

Not only is hydration important at preventing heat injuries but also beneficial at preventing gout attacks, kidney stones, general kidney health and a variety of other illnesses. What are some simple steps at insuring adequate hydration? The easiest is just trying to drink enough fluids so that your urine is relatively clear. The kidney is basically a filter and when your urine is colored, it implies that the kidney is trying to retain water and it puts a lot more stress on that vital organ. Kidney disease is very prevalent in southwest Georgia.

When your weight changes on a daily basis, the majority of that change reflects variation in hydration. You do not gain muscle mass or lose fat quick enough for that to change your weight significantly on a daily basis. If you do athletic activities and note that your weight changes after exercise, the water lost needs to be replaced. Losing about 2 pounds after exercise means you have lost mostly 2 pounds of water. That means you need to drink about a liter of water to replace that water lost. Athlete or not, people sweat at different rates. Having an idea of what your well hydrated weight is allows you to follow your hydration state in addition to just striving to keep your urine relatively clear. There are fancier ways of accomplishing this goal that we will not get into but I would be glad to address them in another article if there is interest.

Losing as little as 2 percent of your bodies water significantly decreases your athletic capabilities and performance. It takes at least a day for your bodies systems to adjust so keeping on top of hydration keeps you from getting behind. The kind of fluids that help are largely those that do not have caffeine or alcohol, both of which dehydrate you. Water, sports drinks, Sprite, 7 up and others hydrate you whereas tea, coffee, Coke and others do not. All of us benefit from keeping hydrated whether it is to improve athletic performance or just to stay healthy.

Dr. McGee is a local physician who spent time in the military, specifically Special Operations Command, where teaching medics and soldiers how to deal with extremes of environment and how to maintain themselves is key to operational success. Additionally he has personal experience having participated in triathlons, marathons and other athletic endeavors. He is the team doctor for Lee County, Darton College and other athletic teams.