In my previous post I wrote about the importance of perspiration and how sweating is your body’s critical physiological protection from overheating.
Now that you know the harm dehydration can cause, here are some tips for exercising safely in the heat:
Take time to Acclimate
The best way to train your body to work out in the hot weather is to work out in hot weather, albeit gradually. Your body adapts to the heat by learning to sweat sooner, excreting fewer electrolytes. It takes approximately six to 10 days of exercising in heat to acclimatize – longer if you don’t work out. A good test to see if you are acclimated is to lick your skin before and after training. If your sweat tastes really salty, you are not yet acclimatized.
Water, Water, Water
Your sweat is primarily made of water so you must replace it before, during and after exercise. Unless you are exercising for more than an hour in the heat, you need not worry about losing too many electrolytes through your perspiration, but you may want to add some salt to your food in addition to replacing fluids. This is especially true if you eat a primarily whole foods diet with few packaged foods. No surprise here, but research shows that sodium helps you retain fluid better than water alone. Don’t wait for thirst to dictate when you drink as it is one of the last indicators of dehydration. Also, keep in mind that cool water (rather than warm or cold) is best absorbed into your bloodstream. Hydrate before, during (depending on duration) and after your workout. An electrolyte replacement drink may be helpful only if you exercise longer than an hour, sweat profusely, or the weather is warm. Generally, 1 bottle of fluid (~16oz) per hour of moderate-intensity exercise should suffice. For the best gauge of how much YOU need to drink post-workout, weigh yourself before and after and drink 16 oz of fluid for every pound lost.
Use sunscreen: research shows that it reduces skin temperature so your body doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you cool. I must comment here, however, that I feel I sweat more when I’m wearing sunscreen (especially on my face). Also, monitor your heart rate during aerobic exercise in the heat. If it’s unusually high, slow down or stop your workout, or take it indoors where it’s cooler. I discovered spinning when I lived in Arizona. I offered a great alternative to running in the heat of the summer on days I couldn’t get up before the sun.
So keep fit this summer, but play it safe, respect the heat and drink up.