Did you know that your body is mostly water? The average human body contains around 10 to 12 gallons of it. With the continued high temperatures across the nation, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit the importance of keeping hydrated.
Water performs several critical functions in your body such as:
- Transporting nutrients and waste
- Maintaining normal blood pressure
- Protecting and cushioning joints and organs
- Regulating body temperature
- Lowering the risk of dehydration and heat stroke.
When it’s hot your body automatically begins secreting water from its stored supply, in the form of sweat. Your body is cooled as the sweat evaporates into the air from the skin. This evaporative cooling process works most efficiently if a rider is wearing tight-fitting synthetic clothing under his or her ventilated protective gear. Synthetic material keeps moisture close to the skin, while allowing air to circulate through it, which helps maximize the cooling effect of the water lost through perspiration. A sweaty cotton t-shirt, on the other hand, is a much less efficient (and less comfortable) material for evaporative cooling.
It’s vitally important to make sure that the water used for evaporative cooling is replaced in your body. But about how much is that? Let’s start with a baseline of water required for everyday activities. First, the food you consume contains a certain amount of water, (depending on what it is) and experts estimate that it fulfills approximately 20% of your daily requirements. That leaves another two liters of water needed for normal activities. Out on the road, on 90-plus degree days, riders are well advised to consume as much additional water as possible, probably an extra one or two liters.
Here are some of the symptoms of insufficient hydration:
- Dark urine
- Dry mouth
- Loss of energy
- Muscle weakness
Consumption of certain types of liquids, like alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, can accelerate dehydration because they usually have a diuretic effect on the body. Here’s a simple four-step strategy for maintaining proper hydration:
- Drink water early and often: before, during, and after the ride.
- Wear evaporative devices such as water absorbent neckties and/or vests.
- Replace electrolytes lost through perspiration by eating fruit or consuming decaffeinated sports drinks.
- Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, and put sunscreen on any areas left exposed.
Staying well hydrated on hot days will help keep you healthy out on the road and improve your enjoyment of the ride.