Hydrating the smart and safe way

By Shelby Tankersley

For athletes, overhydration can become a serious problem. Taking water breaks too often sometimes leads to death.

Tamara Hew-Butler, Associate Professor of Exercise Science, traveled to California on Feb. 20 to join other experts in her field and begin research on this problem.

Staying safe

“I was taught drinking has to be in small doses. Taking multiple mouthfuls during a workout can start weighing you down and lead to cramps,” OU sophomore John Gossett said. “I don’t doubt that people can start to feel sick if they drink too much during a workout.”

During the winter, many people end up drinking less than they do during warmer months; they are also less likely to participate in physical activity. The question is: what’s the right thing to drink when being active and how much should people be drinking?

Simply put, room temperature water is almost always the best thing for one to be drinking while they work out, according to Hew-Butler. Electrolytes found in drinks like Gatorade can also be found in food, and healthy food is often good for one to eat after he or she exercises.

Our bodies are made up of around 60 percent of water on average, so water is the best.

Sticking to H20

So if water is the best, what are students at OU drinking and are we drinking too often?

“I drink only water when I am exercising and on days that I know I will be working out,” Gina Wroblewski said. “I do not drink any caffeinated drinks beforehand, as those dehydrate you a lot.”

Gossett said that he follows a very similar routine.

“I think water is the best thing for you when it comes to keeping hydrated,” Gossett said. “I will drink Gatorade from time to time to change up the taste but I usually stick to water.”

All but two of 100 participants in a survey this past week said that they prefer to drink water while they participate in physical activity.

Along with sticking to water, it’s important to watch how much is consumed. Wroblewski said that she only stops for water when she feels she needs it.

“The body uses water to help it perform the hard work that exercising requires,” Wroblewski said. “I drink when my body starts feeling exhausted but my muscles do not yet feel pain.”

Just the right amount

In last week’s survey, around 73 percent of the participants felt that they kept themselves well hydrated. While drinking too much can be a problem, drinking too little also causes problems for athletes.

According to Hew-Butler, we should only drink when we feel like we need it. We control how much we drink, so we need to be responsible.

“We can consciously control the amount of fluid that enters our body and must reconsider, re-educate and reinforce appropriate fluid intake and intravenous fluid guidelines,” Hew-Butler said.