August days are sweltering in Texas, as well as many other parts of the country.  There are many athletes – baseball players, football players, and runners that are exposed to the heat during the hottest time of the day, in many cases.  There are some keys to staying healthy while exercising, whether as an athlete, or worker who is exposed to the elements every day,  becoming dehydrated.

Mild dehydration is the loss of no more than 5% of the body’s fluid. Loss of 5-10% is considered moderate dehydration. Severe dehydration (loss of 10-15% of body fluids) is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care. 

One of the first steps to getting used to the heat is to become acclimatized.  As the weather heats up, you must ratchet down your outdoor workout for at least five days to two weeks, in order to build up heat tolerance.  If you ride a bike, ride it a little slower until you get used to hotter temperatures.  Walk instead of running, if you are a jogger.  If you are involved in an intense workout, you are creating more heat for your body.  

A sweat rate test will tell you how much fluid you need to replace from your workout: weigh yourself without clothes before and after a workout; add the amount of any fluid you drank from your weight-loss difference, and you’ll have the amount of fluid you lost through sweat.  Hydration keeps your body from overheating.  The best policy is to know what works best for each individual.  The American College of Sports medicine suggests that too much water can cause a sodium imbalance in the body.  Listen to your thirst.  Some fitness program coaches recommend athletes drink 16 to 20 ounces of water before training, carry 20 ounces of water to sip during the workout, and change to an electrolyte sports drink such as Gatorade after the first hour.  Lost sodium can also be replaced with salty snacks.  

There is a common belief that caffeinated drinks dehydrate you, but according to cardiologist Benjamin Levine, caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea will help hydrate your body throughout the day, because they contain water. Dr. John Carlo, Medical Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services recommends that drinking more fluids the day before strenuous exercise will help prevent dehydration.  Hydrating at night is also a good idea, says Dr. Carlo. 

If you have health problems or are more susceptible to heat, you may want to exercise in an air-conditioned wellness center, or gym.  They contain all types of equipment that will enable you to get the amount of conditioning you want.  

Even when the weather is just a few degrees higher than normal, it can take its toll on our bodies.  Those who work outdoors should always take the proper precautions and be able to take breaks away from the sun as often as possible.  Always have fresh water available, and drink it often.  We all need to keep our cool anyway we can!