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Rethink how you rehydrate when exercising
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eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Rethink how you rehydrate when exercising on 11/29/2010 00:47:40 MST Print View

hmmmm .... so when i make the polar bear a deep dark yellow ... does that mean i gotta drink more?

The question

How much should I drink during exercise to stay properly hydrated?

The answer

Here’s a riddle posed recently by South African scientists: A group of soldiers undertook a gruelling 14.6-kilometre march during which they lost an average of 1.3 kilograms. But sophisticated measurements with isotope tracers showed the total amount in water in their bodies actually increased by 0.53 kilograms. Where did this “extra” water appear from?

Groups such as the American College of Sports Medicine have long advocated weighing yourself before and after exercise to determine how much fluid you lost. A litre of water weighs exactly one kilogram – so by this calculation, if you’re a kilogram lighter, that means you sweated out one litre more fluid than you replaced by drinking. Lose more than about 2 per cent of your starting weight, the ACSM warns, and your performance will suffer due to dehydration.

But the South African study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine by researchers at the University of Pretoria, adds fuel to a simmering debate about whether weight loss during exercise corresponds to water loss. They argue that some of the weight loss is from the energy stores you burn, and that your body has “hidden” stores of water that are released during exercise – which may mean we need to rethink how we approach hydration.

No one disputes that weight loss and water loss could, in theory, be different, says Nicholas Tam, a doctoral student at the University of Cape Town, whose forthcoming study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found similar anomalies in half-marathon runners: a loss of 1.4 kilograms on average, but with no change in “total body water” measured with isotope tracers.

“You will use fat, and you will use carbohydrate,” he says, “and once you’ve burned it up, it’s not there any more.”

Scientists agree that when you burn carbohydrate, fat or protein, the byproducts are carbon dioxide, which you breathe out, and water, which actually adds to the fluid available for hydration.

Perhaps more significantly, your body stores carbohydrate in a form that locks away about three grams of water for every gram of carbohydrate. This water doesn’t contribute to essential cellular processes until you start unlocking the carbohydrate stores, so your body sees it as “new” water when it’s released during exercise.

For decades, these factors were assumed to be insignificantly small. But a 2007 paper by British scientists at the University of Loughborough estimated that a marathoner could conceivably lose 1 to 3 per cent of his or her body mass without any loss of water.

These calculations were swiftly disputed. Last year, researchers at Pennsylvania State University published a study funded by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute that put runners through a two-hour intermittent treadmill test and used the isotope tracer technique to measure water in the body. “We found that there were no statistical differences between the runners’ change in body mass and the change in their total body water from pre- to post-exercise,” says Lindsay Baker, the study’s lead author, who is now employed by Gatorade.

The reason for these conflicting findings isn’t yet clear, but it may relate to the details of the experimental protocols, since the amount of water produced by factors such as fuel-burning depends on the intensity of the exercise and whether the subjects have loaded up on carbs.

There’s more than just curiosity about the inner workings of the body at stake in this debate. We’ve known for a long time that drinking only when you’re thirsty during vigorous exercise means you’ll lose some weight; the new results suggest that might not be a problem when it comes to performance.

Mr. Tam believes that a better marker of hydration status is “plasma osmolality,” a measure of the concentration of various substances, such as sodium and glucose, in the blood. In his half-marathon study, the subjects were allowed to drink as much (or as little) as they liked. They lost about 2 per cent of their starting weight – a potentially harmful level, according to the ACSM – but showed essentially no change in plasma osmolality and, more importantly, no noticeable signs of compromised function.

Despite the controversy, weighing yourself before and after exercise remains by far the simplest way to estimate fluid loss. But the new studies suggest that you should use weight loss as a way of comparing the effects of different workouts, rather than worrying about a specific threshold (such as 2 per cent).

Instead, Mr. Tam says, you can trust your body to tell you when it needs water – as long as you listen carefully to signals such as thirst.

Alex Hutchinson blogs about research on exercise at

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Rethink how you rehydrate when exercising on 11/29/2010 01:03:39 MST Print View

"Gatorade Sports Science Institute" ?

I'm sure the institute is well-funded.

There are some screwy things that can happen to an endurance athlete during a sports event. Often, they are trying to block routine pain with OTC pain medication, such as Tylenol. That isn't too dangerous as long as you are taking plenty of water with it. Unfortunately, on some sports events, plenty of water is unavailable, so the athlete ends up taking lots of Tylenol with very little water. After a while, that screws up normal kidney function. They keep trying to drink water, but it just sloshes around in the stomach, because the kidneys can't get the excess water to pass, so it stays in the stomach and never enters the bloodstream. The weight scale shows that the athlete is increasing weight, and that suggests that the athlete is well-hydrated, but the fluid isn't really usable, so it is a very unhealthy situation. Sometimes dialysis is the only cure.

Keeping a healthy water balance is a lot smarter.


Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
hydration on 11/29/2010 17:35:56 MST Print View

interesting read- thanks :)

someone linked a recent study that looked at hydration and skiers (Dr Seifert)- very insightful read

cliff notes- very hard to "recoup" hydration at your mid day break, pointed out the importance of good hydration BEFORE one starts their preferred activity

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: hydration on 11/29/2010 18:07:12 MST Print View

Years ago, some physicians noticed that there was a much higher incidence of Acute Mountain Sickness, or worse, in skiers at Mammoth Mountain ski area as compared to those at Lake Tahoe. Why would that be?

The base elevation at Mammoth is about 8000 feet. At most places around Tahoe, it is about 6000 feet. It turns out that is kind of a fuzzy threshold point for AMS. Once they saw that, they started finding out the importance of hydration for skiers.


Michael Cockrell

Locale: Central Valley, Lodi-Stockton, CA
Re: hydrate when exercising-Hammer Nutrian throey on 11/30/2010 12:05:40 MST Print View

Here is the link to Hammer's approach to hydration: