Port Alberni is one of the hottest valleys on Vancouver Island, and with the heat comes the real risk of dehydration for those who spend extensive amounts of time outdoors.
With summer just around the corner and many people enjoying the great outdoors for physical activities, hobbies, or for work, it’s important to consider how much and what type of fluids will help maintain hydration for good health.
Water is the best fluid and most people can easily increase the amount they normally consume over the day to help replace lost fluids in the heat of the dry season.
Drinking at least one to two cups (250 ml to 500 ml) of water up to four hours before exercise and drinking another half to 1.5 cups (125 to 375 ml) of fluid about two hours before playing a sport are some guidelines to follow, especially if you have not produced any urine or if urine is dark yellow (indicating the possible start of a dehydration state).
Some signs that may indicate dehydration, include:
• dry lips and mouth
• flushed skin
• dizziness and fainting
• low blood pressure and increased heart rate
• dark yellow, strong smelling urine
For those people who participate in active sports (for more than 45 minutes) and either sweat a lot, wear heavy equipment or find themselves in a hot and/or humid environment for extended time periods, extra water and sports drinks can offer a way to prevent dehydration, muscle cramps and getting tired too quickly.
Sports drinks contain sugar and electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium to offer the right balance to replace lost perspiration. Sipping on a sports drink, such as Gatorade, Powerade or homemade orange juice with salt every 10 to 15 minutes will help to offer re-hydration without causing cramps and bloating that could happen with sugary drinks, such as pop, fruit juice or energy drinks.
Energy drinks that claim to “make you more alert and boost your energy” generally contain caffeine and herbal stimulants that are not considered safe for children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These drinks, such as Monster, Redbull, Full Throttle and Amp should not be confused with sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade.
Energy drinks containing stimulants, such as caffeine and herbal additives can accelerate dehydration and lead to other side effects.
Fruit juice and fruit beverages (fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit cocktail) should be kept to a minimum and limited, since they contain a high level of sugar, which can lead to unwanted weight gain (excess fat storage), elevated triglycerides and fluctuations with blood sugar, if diabetes is a concern.
Even the ‘all natural’ fruit juice offer high levels of sugar and lack other nutrients. These sugary drinks offer very little in the way of nutrition and are loaded with sugar and flavouring.
Carbonated beverages, like pop, Big Gulps and Slurpees are also full of sugar and flavouring. Regular intake of these types of drinks do not fit into a healthy lifestyle.
Keeping hydrated is very important in the heat and helps the body maintain function and optimal physical ability. Going for a run, bike ride, long hike or playing sports like tennis, hockey, soccer, rugby, basketball, football, or partaking in heavy labour in a hot environment will all be circumstances which increase risk of dehydration.
In addition, being physically active in or above the water for enjoyment of sports such as swimming, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, kiteboarding and windsurfing for long periods (over 45 minutes) may also lead to dehydration, if adequate fluids are not considered.
Plan to bring water to drink, since prevention is key.
Sandra Gentleman, RD, is a local Registered Dietitian and steward of Canal Beach.