Wet Your Whistle

If a person is told you to “move your big toe” and you do, the accomplishment of this  task  is made possible by a series of nerve impulses that travel through the brain, down the spinal cord to the toe. The smooth functioning of these electrical transmissions of our nervous system is highly dependent on water

Water is important to many bodily functions, such as regulating temperature, transporting nutrients and oxygen to the blood, removing waste, and lubricating joints.  Dehydration can be a serious issue.  Everyday our bodies lose water through sweating, exhaling, urination and bowel movements.  This water needs to be replaced.

For athletes, young or old, if the body is not well-hydrated, exercising ability may be comprised by the body’s need to regulate temperature.  The body steals water from inside the cells in order to cool itself, which limits muscle function.  Allowed to continue, the athlete suffers symptoms of heat exhaustion (dizziness, nausea, profuse sweating) or heatstroke (hot, dry skin, headaches, rapid pulse, faintness, flushing) and/or muscle cramps.  The second most common sports injury among young athletes is heat exhaustion or heat stroke, usually complicated by dehydration.

A Tufts University study provides insight into the effects of mild dehydration on young athletes and people who don’t consume enough water daily. Researchers found that dehydration was associated with negative mood, including fatigue and confusion, compared to a hydrated group. The level of mild dehydration (fluid losses of between 1 and 2 percent) experienced among study participants is comparable to the mild dehydration some people experience in their daily lives from drinking insufficient amounts of water.  Not surprising. Our brains are comprised of about 90% water.  Hydration is key not only for physical activity, but for thinking and learning as well.

Surprisingly, thirst is not a reliable indicator of the need for hydration.  The human thirst mechanism doesn’t kick in until the body has lost a significant amount of fluid.  At this point decreased performance already is evident.  That is, by the time you feel thirsty, you already are dehydrated.  Adults over 50 have a continually diminished thirst sensation, which can cause chronic dehydration.

Drinking water according to a schedule or a routine is the best insurance.  Keep water in your car and at your desk and remember to encourage your child to drink water before, during and after play.

But wait.  Some studies show that the presence of flavoring in a beverage enhances thirst and increases voluntary hydration.  Liquid that has a slightly sweet or slightly citrus flavor works well.  A tiny dose of carbohydrates from the sweetener also can give the body a  lift.  This is one reason sports drinks can be effective in rehydrating and re-energizing.  There are good ways to mimic what sports drinks do without choosing brands containing unwanted sweeteners, chemicals or turquoise coloring (how do they make that?).  Read the labels of your favorite enhanced water to make sure the ingredients add to your well-being.

Bottled waters such as Metromint, ActiVwater and Twist have the hint of flavor and varying amounts of calories (at most 45) from added sweeteners. Coconut water recently has gained popularity and offers a few calories, a healthy dose of potassium, fresh flavor and water.

Homemade sports drinks also area good option, and are very easy to make. The players on my daughter’s soccer team swore by Lime Boost. Combine a pint of lime juice and a cup  of sugar over low heat until the sugar dissolves and starts to thicken.  Store this simple syrup in a jar in your refrigerator. Fill a water bottle with a  tablespoon of Lime Boost and the rest water.  Add a pinch of salt if sodium loss is of concern.  Pomegranate juice or lemon juice can be substituted for lime. Or mix them up!

Also avoid caffeine and sugar or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) when trying to rehydrate. Caffeinated beverages may act as a diuretic, and the calories in HFCS are not readily converted into muscle energy.  Plus, sodas that contain over 20% sugar are basically liquid candy which won’t satisfy thirst but will pile on empty calories.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a statement warning parents about giving kids sports drinks and energy drinks – not necessary!  And in some instances (especially caffeinated energy drinks) dangerous. There’s a reason they are called “Monster”.

So next time you exercise in the heat or take a pop quiz, make sure to keep your water bottle handy. Sipping often (no chugging)  keeps brains and muscles functioning at their peak.

One thought on “Wet Your Whistle

  1. Hi! I found your website through my husband’s work. He is part time Addiction physician, part time he works in Bariatrics through Kaiser. I LOVE the website.
    So, here is my question. How, how how do I get my almost 17 yr. old daughter, who happens to have Down Syndrome to eat something other than carbs and ketchup? We are a healthy, active family. She helps me cook, she helps me grocery shop, we pick out menus together, etc, etc. But when it comes down to eating “healthy”, the most green the girl will put in her mouth is romaine lettuce. With croutons. And, if I’m not watching, soaked in salad dressing.
    She will eat fruit-probably because of the sugar content.
    Meat, is down to ground turkey .with ketchup Chicken is spit out unless there is bbq sauce on it. I know, I know. I’m the one who said yes to bbq sauce, but I was tired of her not eating anything different. I have tried clearing the pantry of crunchy stuff, and true to form, she won’t eat. But boy will she get crabby. I have whittled carbs and snacks down to: goldfish, pretzels, fruit and yogurt, high fiber tortillas, hamburger buns and white whole grain bread.
    She also has some OCD going on around food….
    Sorry this is so long winded, but am I worrying for nothing?
    Thanks so much
    Lynn Richards

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