The Dangers of Becoming Dehydrated

Exercising provides many benefits to the body. It keeps a body healthy, fit and toned, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease. However, if the person exercising does not stay well-hydrated during exercise, then exercise becomes dangerous. Dehydration is the biggest risk those who exercise face, bigger than either accident or injury, and it can happen to anyone.

Because water makes up over 70 percent of the human body, and water is needed for the human body, any activity that causes the loss of fluids from the body can be deadly. Those wishing to obtain peak performance during exercise should know how important staying well-hydrated is.

Dehydration during exercise can lead to the following problems:

  • Cramping of muscles
  • Lethargy, fatigue
  • Inefficient delivery of nutrients
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Overheating and heat exhaustion
  • Damage to the muscles

In extreme cases, dehydration leads to death. Dehydration slows performance and delays recovery time after exercise. It is common for runners who are running at a light pace to lose between three and four pounds of water per hour. Those who run at a faster pace, easily lose between five and six pounds. Weightlifters, football players, and other athletes who must exert pressure or wear layers of clothing are also at risk.

Those beginning an exercise program are also at risk for dehydration during exercise. Failure to hydrate while working out in a gym environment results in a loss of at least five reps during exercise sets. Beginners may believe it is a lack of stamina causing this, when in reality, it is a lack of hydration.


How to stay hydrated

1.  Hydrate before exercise

When getting ready to hit the field, road, or gym, you should try to drink one ounce for every ten pounds you weigh. If you weigh 180 pounds, you should drink 18 ounces of water.

2.  Hydrate during exercise

For every 10-15 minutes spent exercising, eight to ten ounces of water should be consumed. If you are thirsty, you are dehydrated. After 90 minutes of exercise, eight to ten ounces of sports drink should be consumed. Runners should alternate ten ounces of water and ten ounces of sports drink every three miles. At three miles, water should be consumed, at six miles, sports drink, at nine miles, water, and so on, for the entirety of the run or marathon.

3. Hydrate after exercise

Immediately after exercise, weigh yourself on a scale. Drink 24 ounces of fluid for each pound lost during exercise. Within two hours of an intensive exercise routine, replace protein and carbs. The USAF marches their recruits to the mess hall immediately after exercise during boot camp. There, the recruits are made to drink 10 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk. Chocolate milk provides a good balance of sugars, salts, proteins, and carbs.


Other factors that contribute to dehydration

In addition to intense exercise, environmental and genetic factors can contribute to dehydration.

– Those who live and exercise in high altitudes are more susceptible to dehydration. High altitude increases fluid loss.
– Exercising in temperatures over 70F without humidity and 60F with humidity increase the loss of fluid.
– Exercising for three to five hours increases the risk of dehydration.
– The amount a person sweats is a factor in dehydration. People who sweat more than others are at risk.

Besides drinking water and sports drinks to stay hydrated, try to exercise during cooler parts of the day. Be flexible with your exercise schedule and pace yourself as much as possible. Those who stay hydrated have a more successful workout and recover faster than those who become dehydrated.

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