Working out in the summer heat

Team Fresno medalists were honored with awards and medals July 18 at a ceremony held at the VA Medical Center. (Photo by Diana Giraldo)

Working out without the proper water intake can quickly lead to dehydration, and adding the Fresno summer heat can make it a dangerous combination.

Kelly Jensen, Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Certified Fitness Trainer, explained that people generally think of rehydrating themselves while they are working out, but the hydration process should start hours before the workout begins.

“If people are in shape, are healthy and they are properly hydrating themselves before the workout, during the workout and after the workout, they should not have a problem,” Jensen said. “However, if people are not properly hydrating themselves, if they are not preloading or are not drinking the right amount of water during their workout, then it can become a problem.”

Jensen likes to tell people who are planning to do their exercise routine outside during the heat of the day to drink at least 2 cups of water, which is 16 ounces or half a liter of water, 30 minutes before the exercise. Although, it would ideal to start drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before the start of an exercise.

Jensen will typically begin her water intake the moment she wakes up, drinking two cups of water to flush her body and get her metabolism started for the day.

During the workout the individual should be drinking 8 ounces of water, which is about a cup, every 15 minutes.

“You should do that throughout your entire workout, but the biggest thing is to listen to your body,” Jensen said. “Say you are used to training, you just decide to go outside, and you know what it feels like to workout inside, and you don’t usually get cramps. If you are running and your eyes are a little bit fuzzy or you start getting that twitch in your side or your muscles feel weak, more than likely you are starting to get dehydrated.”

The intensity of the workout does become a factor in this situation. The more intense a workout, the more you will sweat, which means the more water you have to replace. For those who are doing vigorous activities for a long period for time, Jensen suggests going even further than drinking water and adding an electrolyte replacement drink and then drinking water after.

“The moment you start cramping up, that’s when you would want to put an electrolyte replacement in there,” Jensen said. “If you don’t have one on hand, eating something that has a quick sugar or carb, even though it is not the best thing for your body, is better than nothing.”

In electrolyte replacement drinks, Jensen said the most important thing to look for is for them to have a one-to-one balance of sodium and potassium with low sugar.

“So if you are doing something outside where you are sweating buckets, you are going to have to drink more water than if you were not sweating as much,”Jensen said. “People that are not properly hydrated, it doesn’t take much dehydration for your body to start reacting to it.”

Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself, almost like an internal air conditioner that keeps your core temperature from getting too high, Jensen explained. Sweating does a lot of good things for the body, like helping cleanse toxins and cleanse the skin.

Once we begin sweating and the body loses a half percent of water, the heart will have to work harder to keep up with the workout you are doing by pumping more blood, Jensen said. This is because over 80 percent of blood is comprised of water.

If you continue and lose about one percent of your water volume, your aerobic endurance is going to begin to reduce, Jensen continued. At about three percent your muscle endurance is going to be reduced. At four percent water loss, muscle weakness will begin and the person’s cognitive clarity may even be affected, which can make someone get fuzzy and not think as clearly.

“All this happens because your brain and muscles are made up of about 75 percent of water,” Jensen said. “When you are losing water and starting to dehydrate you are going to notice that muscle weakness, your brain fogginess, and you are not going to have as much mental clarity.”

If you go on even further, you get into the big bad things, Jensen said. At about 5 percent of water loss people will hit heat exhaustion and will start to experience cramping fatigue, and even further reduced mental clarity. At 6 percent you can reach heat stroke and go into a comma.

For the average person, it is better to work out in the morning or at dusk when it is cooler because, from a recovery aspect, it is not going to be as hard on your body, Jensen said. But it all depends on what the person is trying to accomplish.

“If someone is a competitive wrestler or MMA fighter and they are trying to make weight and drop that temporary weight real fast for an event, then that is a reason somebody would work out in the heat,” Jensen said. “But for the average person, just because you are sweating more does not mean you are losing weight.”

By sweating, Jensen said, people may lose a large amount of water. And although the scale might show a lower number, the second you put the water back into your body the scale will go back up because it is all water weight.

Once the workout is over drink, drink and drink water Jensen said. One way of remembering to do so is to use the rubber band method with an aluminum water bottle that stays cold during the day to keep track of how much water you drink. For example, if the bottle holds three cups of water use three rubber bands and every time you drink one cup move a rubber band to the top. By refilling it throught the day you can easily reach the necessary water intake.

“Even if people are not exercising out in the heat it is important for everyone to be aware that it is hotter outside,” Jensen said. “Everyone needs to up their water intake because even if we are not exercising, even just walking to your car or being outside in the heat, your body is releasing more water from sweat than it would in the fall or winter months.”