The hottest summer in recent years is upon us in the contiguous United States in 2012. It could be due to the actual temperatures or to those skimpy Olympic swim trunks diving trunks donned in London; it isn't quite clear yet. Whether it's attributed to the weather or scraps of lycra material, the heat is on! Just for our own application purposes, we are going to believe it is due to Mother Nature and not to buff bodies and glute cleavage (that really is inappropriate for viewers, young and old alike.)
Undoubtedly the best time to ride during the summer is in the morning or evening - avoiding the 90+ degree temperatures that suck the energy right out of us. Even then, however, humidity can be high and temps are still in the upper 80s. Have you ever thought about what is in your sweat? Have you felt the effects of mild to severe dehydration?
How to Spot Mild Dehydration
Tiredness, cramping, headache, goose bumps, loose skin on hand are symptomatic for mild dehydration.
One easy to do test can be done at any time your hand is available. Perhaps check before you ride and several times during your ride when you stop for a break.
What's in the Sweat?
Water, salt, potassium and magnesium."Where salt goes, water follows" is something I was taught in nursing school. So guess what happens in sweat? The salt leaves the body and water follows right along. Potassium is vital for electrical conduction and nerve function in the body. We pretty much enjoy how it tells our heart to beat, when pain arises and causes our muscles to contract, so we should really work on keeping our potassium levels on the happy side. Magnesium levels keep minerals in balance; such minerals play a role in heart function, calcium absorption (bone strength) and more.
Caffeine, watermelon, asparagus, cantaloupe, pineapple, black beans, broccoli and many other food that are natural diuretics are good for a healthy diet. However, in these dog days of summer be sure to keep the water intake on a high level (at least 2 quarts a day) to keep enough water in your system. For each cup of coffee you consume, my doctor told me to be sure to add back at least one cup of water above and beyond the 2 quart daily consumption. Typically, these foods will not cause dehydration on their own, but will help with water retention in the body. Alcohol is also a known diuretic; be sure that if you're riding on "the day after" you have replaced the water that you voided the night before.
Before you head out on your rides, be sure that you are prepared to stave off dehydration by being properly hydrated to begin with (do a skin turgor test), take plenty of liquids with you on your ride (one bottle per hour, starting with water then going to electrolytes thereafter) and that you have planned stops to refill your bottles if going on a long ride. Dehydration is a serious issue and must be staved off at all costs.
Next week's tip will be a review of heat-related illnesses: how to spot and treat them.