Dehydration and Exercise: What Not to Do

During athletic performance, especially in events that require endurance such as long distance cycling and marathon running, individuals become prone to heart attacks, heat strokes and more when they fail to maintain proper levels of hydration. Drinking enough water during exercise is imperative.

Once tragedy strikes in the form of a heat stroke or heart attack, administering water to the victim is no longer a priority, calling an ambulance is.

Heatstroke resulting from dehydration during exercise

When your body’s core temperature raises too much, heatstroke can occur. This is a serious medical emergency. The brain can sustain permanent damage. Medical assistance becomes the priority. The majority of physicians treat heat stroke by pouring cool water (or other available fluids) on the body and allowing evaporation to take place. This surface evaporation process induces body cooling. In a pinch, individuals may also have ice cubes rubbed on their skin in order to alleviate the excessive heat.

You can spot the onset of a heat stroke by witnessing pain and/or burning in the muscles. As time continues to pass, other symptoms may begin to surface.


  • Burning of the lungs when breathing
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness

When either of the last 4 symptoms above begin to surface during a heat stroke, the implication is that the brain has started to be affected. Most likely, the athlete will experience an impending sensation of doom as he or she nears the point of passing out. You should know that in most cases, endurance athletes do not collaps due to dehydration. In the majority of cases, other disorders are the cause. Be aware that heat stroke is not something that should ever happen to an individual during exercise. Maintaining adequate levels of hydration during exercise is the key to avoidance.

How much water should be taken in on a daily basis?

Firstly, you need to understand that there is a huge myth that has been circulating around the entire planet for decades. We have been taught that drinking a minimum of 8 glasses of water daily is proper. However, according to the Canadian Institute of Medicine, human beings are sufficiently hydrated in most cases simply by drinking healthful, refreshing fluids when they experience thirst.

Your brain knows when you’re thirsty; listen to it. The real problem is the overconsumption of sodium and the underconsumption of potassium.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies further reports:

  • Sufficiently hydrated women take in an average of 91 oz of total water from all beverages and foods consumed in a given 24 hour period
  • In comparison, adequately hydrated men require approximately 125 ounces of total water daily
  • In hotter climates, and for people who are extremely physically active, intake amounts need to be increased

How much sodium intake is needed daily?

As you know, the human body requires sodium chloride to survive. On average, a given individual will lose approximately 3.8g of salt daily due to perspiration. That figure comes from 1.5g of sodium and 2.3g of chloride. The accepted upper intake level (UL) of sodium chloride each day maxes out at 5.8g.

Risks to consider about the over consumption of sodium chloride include:

  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Kidney disease

Further, African Americans and the elderly are especially susceptible to salt-induced blood pressure spikes. In fact, it is estimated that roughly 92% of males between the ages of 30 and 49, and 75% of women in the same age group, take in too much sodium chloride on a daily basis (more than 5.8g).

How much potassium is required for health on a daily basis?

To achieve optimal health, all human beings, endurance athletes included, need to take in approximately 4.7g of potassium each day. The failure to do so increases and individual’s probability to develop a variety of undesirable health issues.

Adequate potassium intake will:

  • Lessen the adverse affects of the over consumption of salt
  • Decrease the risk of developing kidney stones
  • Decrease the onset of bone loss
  • Decrease the risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and numerous other preventable diseases and disorders

Westernized food intake standards are taking over the entire planet. Human beings are taking in too much sodium chloride (salt) and too little potassium. Of course, this is exactly the opposite of what is recommended to promote and maintain optimal health levels.

The good news about dehydration during exercise

It’s easy to avoid. Adequate hydration levels during exercise can be achieved by paying attention to your own sense of thirst. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to take in an extra dose of life-sustaining water, especially during endurance athletic events. However, you should pay more attention to your intake levels of sodium chloride and potassium.

Also, taking in extra water on a regular basis will help your body to flush toxins, lubricate joints, keep your skin supple and smooth – and a variety of other pleasing results. Of course, too much of any good thing is not so good and you need to be mindful about the potential of water intoxication.

Exercising common sense about your thirst levels and sticking to a diet based on water-rich foods, as well as taking in less salt and more potassium, will allow you to thwart the development of dehydration during endurance exercise sessions very effectively.



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