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The importance of hydration |

Sunday Lifestyle

The importance of hydration

- Tanya T. Lara -

Three months ago, I got so dehydrated from food poisoning that I lost 10 pounds in three days. That’s when I was rushed to the hospital emergency room. My doctor scolded me: “Why did you wait three days to go to a hospital? Your kidneys could have shut down, it could have affected your heart.”

I wanted to say: When you’re vomiting like Linda Blair on The Exorcist, your mind isn’t really functioning well.

In fact, nothing was functioning well. I would take a sip of water and immediately throw it up. And because of diarrhea, I couldn’t eat either. I looked like I was a war refugee. My cheekbones had sunk, my feet and wrists had literally shrunk, and the outline of my veins began to show through the skin. My aunt, who took me to the hospital, looked at my feet and said, “I can’t believe you’ve run a marathon with those feet. They look so fragile.”

I stayed in the hospital for six days. They ran all sorts of blood, kidney, and heart tests on me. I was hooked to an IV the whole time. 

After six days, they had pumped 13 bags (13 liters) of dextrose into me. I gained back my 10 pounds, my cheeks had come out again — in short, I began looking the way I was before the food poisoning. And I thought: All this from dehydration?

Sometimes, we forget the basic thing about ourselves: About half the adult human body is water; babies are 75 to 80 percent water. The human brain is 85 percent water, and our bones are 10 to 15 percent water.

Hydration is important, yes. It gives us life, it gives us energy, plus it helps in weight loss as water is a natural appetite suppressant. And when you throw in sweating and exercise, it becomes crucial.

With running now becoming the new lifestyle and sport among people of all ages and backgrounds, proper hydration should be on everybody’s consciousness. As a weekend runner myself, I know for a fact that hydration — whether from water or a sports drink — can alter one’s performance for the better or worse. Even experienced or elite runners sometimes forget how important hydration is. In the past 10 years alone, there have been reports of deaths during or right after a marathon or practice run due to heatstroke — and one time, even due to over-hydration or hyponatremia, an imbalance in the fluid-electrolyte ratio in the body. 

So, when should you drink fluids and how much? The rule of thumb is to drink ahead of thirst. You should hydrate before, during, and after exercise. During an exercise is very critical as dehydration can lead to muscle cramping, lightheadedness, disorientation. and chills. Proper hydration can help keep heatstroke at bay and improve performance.

Runners often judge how well a race is organized by the number of drinking stations along the course — whether it’s a 10k, a 21k or a full marathon. Was the water clean? Did the sports drink they gave away sit well in the stomach? Often, the racecourse is only secondary to the drinking stops.

At a high-profile race in The Fort last Oct. 13, for instance, I ran 10k and found the water stops severely lacking (you can imagine how much harder it was for those who ran 21k). The sun was particularly hot that Sunday and the course challenging as it included a flyover. There were about 6,000 registered runners and people behind the stops were scooping up water from pails and into the cups — and you could see sand in the bottom of the pails. But still we drank the water. By midday, the running community was reverberating with complaints online: How could the race fail to anticipate the needs of runners? Didn’t they know how hard it is to run thirsty under the heat of the morning sun?

Exactly how much fluids should one take when running or exercising?

According to the GSSI, the current accepted guideline is to replace what you lose. Obeying your thirst is not a good measure because by the time we are thirsty, we could already be dehydrated.

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