The Great Debate: Gatorade or Water

August 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

If there is one thing almost everyone who has ever done serious mountain biking knows, it is the value of good hydration. In fact, the matter of hydration is so important that not taking care to make sure you are well hydrated can lead to some serious health effects. A person who begins to go through the process of dehydration loses energy, experiences poor cognitive function (commonly refered to as “spacing out”), and runs the risk of disastrous health problems such as kidney or liver failure. What many people do not realize is that the effects of dehydration can begin to occur within minutes of engaging in any exerting activity. Luckily, there are many easy ways to counter dehydration that are as simple as making sure you have a water bottle full of water and you drink it often during your ride.

Not only is water important, but there are also several things you should avoid just before engaging in any heavy exertion like mountain biking. One of the biggest mistakes bikers make is drinking soda either before or on the ride. The reason soda is so bad is not the caffeine content, nor the sugar content (both of those are actually positives in small amounts) but the high sodium content. Sodium is a natural dehydrator and will dry up a good deal of the bodies’ natural water reserves as it makes its way through your system.

mountain biker with gatorade 300x225 The Great Debate:  Gatorade or WaterSo the natural question is where does Gatorade fit into the whole mess? Well, actually Gatorade is a great thing to have on the trail. It contains carbohydrates, sugars, and salts that the body loses during heavy exertion. In fact, because of the formula used in Gatorade it is actually better than straight water while on the trail. Where many people run into problems is using Gatorade at times when it is not beneficial, and could be harmful.

It may not make much sense, but the fact of the matter is that Gatorade is not a good idea unless you are involved in heavy exertion. The reasons for this are the same reasons Gatorade is so good on the trail. When you are not involved in heavy exertion you do not lose the things that Gatorade replenishes. You are not using carbohydrates, you are not burning sugars, and you are not sweating out the bodies’ salt supplies. So when you take that great big gulp of your favorite flavor you are actually giving the body more than it needs, and when the body gets more than it needs it tries to store it. In other words, it becomes fat or excess sugar floating around in the blood stream causing damage to blood veins and other parts of your internal structure. Over enough time this can lead to obesity and diabetes no matter how active a lifestyle you maintain.

So what is the best policy to remain well hydrated during the trail? Well, a good rule of thumb is to drink 16 or more ounces of water before you ride, keep a Gatorade or other sports drink handy for the ride, and when the ride is over drink some more water. This will keep you full of all the right minerals, keep enough water in the body, and provide long term energy for even the toughest of trails. Remember that while your body is tough, taking care of it will help make sure it is around for a little bit longer.

Dehydration, the Forgotten Enemy

July 31, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

If you were to list the greatest threats to your safety when mountain biking what do you think it would look like? Most people would probably put some form of bodily injury at the top. This makes perfect sense, one wipe out at the wrong time and you are going to have some injury. After the various forms of bodily injury, most people would probably state exhaustion, again makes a lot of sense, mountain biking is intense exercise and if you over do it you will notice it pretty quickly. Going along with this idea the next thing most people would point to would be heat stroke. However the single most important health risk when mountain biking is perhaps one of the easiest to avoid, dehydration.

It is easy to understand why dehydration is so overlooked. Dehydration masks itself under a variety of other symptoms, so often we tend to think that something else is at fault when the effects of dehydration begin to show. Also because the body can cope with dehydration on its own, we tend to ignore the minor signs until it is too late. Then suddenly people are having a hard time standing, their muscles ache from constant cramping, and eventually coma can set in. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it can’t happen in the space of a couple hours. Dehydration can reduce even the healthiest person down to unconsciousness in a very short time if the circumstances are right. So knowing that Dehydration is a problem is a start but what exactly is dehydration, how does someone recognize it, and most importantly, how can you treat it? Answering these questions is the purpose of this article.

What is dehydration?

In essence dehydration occurs when the body is loosing more water than it is replacing. As the body looses water it begins to take action to preserve both water and blood pressure. To do this it stops letting water flow to the bladder and through the intestines while taking water from the cells and putting it out into the bloodstream. While this is a good short term solution, if left unchecked it can lead to serious problems.

What are the effects of dehydration?

The earliest effects of dehydration are manifested as thirst. As dehydration continues the body will show symptoms such as dry mouth, the stopping of sweat, and other water conservation reactions. As the body continues to dehydrate physical symptoms such as muscle cramps and vomiting will begin. If by this point the body does not get the water it needs people will begin to experience light headedness, and eventually neil showing off 287x300 Dehydration, the Forgotten Enemycan fall in to coma, and in some cases die.

What leads to dehydration?

Several factors lead to dehydration, the key one being lack of water. However while lack of water is the biggest culprit many things can speed up the dehydration process. First the heat of the air will cause the body to sweat more, thus water loss will occur. Next is heat caused by exercise (such as in mountain biking), where again the body seeks to cool itself by sweating. Other causes are frequent urination, diarrhea, and vomiting. In fact if you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting before riding it is highly suggested you do not go as you are at a very great risk.

How can I avoid dehydration?

The easiest way to avoid dehydration is to drink a lot of water. Depending on your climate you want to drink a minimum of 1 quart or more of water a day. Also if you are an active person increase your water intake accordingly to make camelbak womens luxe hydration pack Dehydration, the Forgotten Enemysure the body stays well hydrated. Also there are several drinks and powders available such as Gatorade that help keep the body hydrated.

What do I do if I am experiencing the symptoms of dehydration?

Only a health care professional can tell you if you are truly dehydrated, but if you suspect you may be suffering from dehydration there are things you can do to counter act the symptoms. First stop any intensive activity. You want the body to cool down and thus need less water. Also a relaxed body maintains blood pressure better than an active one and the body can use the water in the blood for other functions. Next if possible find shade and rest there. Again you want to cool down the body and the cooler the better. Once resting and in the shade, drink some water. It is important to remember that drinking water to quickly can cause problems, but make sure to keep drinking until you don’t feel thirsty any more. If after drinking water and cooling down you are not feeling any better, go to the nearest hospital. While they will most likely just give you an IV liquid, it is always better safe than sorry.

So there you have it, some information about dehydration, and the ways to avoid it. It may seem that this is a fairly minor issue compared to a broken bone (or even worse a flat tire) but in all reality dehydration can kill very quickly if people do not take it seriously. In fact according to the latest estimates by the World health organization well over four million people die each year world wide from the effects of dehydration. Do yourself a favor and make your water bottle your best friend.