Drink lots to stay above water

VIRGINIA WINDER
Last updated 10:16 17/04/2012
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If we don't get enough water, we don't function properly

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It's a hot afternoon, one in a string of similar days, and Steve and Marie are out running. He is faster than her, so is ahead, which is why she watches it happen and can replay it all so clearly.

Steve is striding along, then he stumbles, collapses and lies still. She runs to him. He's not moving, but is breathing. Thank God. She calls out for help and people do come. Someone calls for an ambulance, she thinks it was her. But Steve lies on their favourite running trail, unresponsive.

The ambulance arrives, the medics take control and Steve is whisked away. Marie follows in their car.

When they get to hospital, Steve is awake. He came to in the ambulance and is now in a euphoric state. So is Marie, but hers is through relief.

After a barrage of tests, it turns out the reason for Steve's collapse isn't a heart attack or brain aneurism; it is because of severe dehydration and low blood sugar.

Put simply, this triathlete-in- training had not been drinking or eating enough during the three days leading up to the episode.

These days Steve is a water advocate and Marie is too. For years she joked about being a camel and admitted being one of those people who finds it difficult to drink water. Not now.

So let this be a lesson to all people doing sport of any kind - you must drink H20. The reason water is so important to us is a no- brainer. Well, actually it is. About 60 per cent of an adult's body is made up water and that percentage is even higher for children. Also, our brains are made up of 70 per cent water.

If we don't get enough water, we don't function properly.

According to the Australian Sports Nutrition website, even mild dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3 per cent. It also says a lack of water is the No 1 trigger for daytime fatigue and that a mere 2 per cent drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic maths, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page. Parents and teachers, get kids to drink water.

For sportspeople, such as Steve and Marie, drinking water is even more critical.

In his book Cycling for Triathletes, Paul van den Bosch, says that, when athletes are working out, they perspire to help regulate body temperature because vaporisation of sweat helps cool us down. Not surprisingly, body temperatures rise more rapidly in warm than in cool weather, he says. "Sweat evaporates quicker in warm and dry weather and will cool the body more rapidly in these conditions than in warm and wet weather. This is particularly important for long-term efforts," van den Bosch writes.

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He says that, when an athlete sweats a great deal, it can have a major impact on how they perform. "Research has shown that a loss of just 1 per cent leads to performance loss. A 3-5 per cent loss can equal a fall of 10-30 per cent of the performance capacity."

So if you see the All Blacks or Silver Ferns sucking on drink bottles at every opportunity, feel relieved. But, if you see one of our top triathletes or marathon runners shrug off a drink station offering, you should get a sinking feeling - chances are you just saw them lessen their winning chances.

We've all seen those replays of athletes getting bendy knees and struggling for finishing lines and, in worst-case scenarios, like Steve, passing out. Van den Bosch says that when a person becomes dehydrated their blood becomes less liquid and, because of this, their heart will pump less effectively.

"Less oxygen can be transported to the working muscles and less sweat will be produced." That means the body can't cool down, so temperatures rise and keep going up. This can be extremely dangerous and can cause permanent damage to organs, including the kidney, liver and our all-important brains.

Early symptoms of dehydration can be a headache, being lightheaded or dizzy, suffering from fatigue or weakness, having a dry mouth or chills. Severe symptoms are increased heart rate, respiration and body temperature, muscle cramps, tingling limbs, nausea, extreme exhaustion and lack of sweat or urination.

Dehydration can also lead to injury because, if you aren't functioning well, you can easily lose your balance and hurt yourself while training or in a race. To drink water on the run, there are whole bunch of hydration systems for athletes, including lightweight bladder backpacks and hand-held bottles and holders.

But if you can, avoid using reusable plastic drink bottles because you could be opening yourself up to another toxin - bisphenol A, which is used in the production of a hard, clear plastic known as polycarbonate and also epoxy resins. Research shows bisphenol A leaches from plastic into water. Its effects on males can be feminising effects and low sperm counts, while it can prompt precocious puberty in females and breast cancers.

Also avoid aluminium bottles because there is still a connection between this metal and Alzheimer's disease. Opt for stainless steel because it's light and will last longest.

If you work on a computer, drinking water can lessen your chances of suffering from occupational overuse syndrome, commonly referred to as OOS. You may be scratching your head, but the answer is simple - the more you drink, the more you have to get up from your computer and go to the loo. That means you have to get away from your screen and while you're relieving yourself (standing or sitting), make sure you roll those shoulders, stretch your neck and, before you head back to your desk, grab yourself another glass of water.

And then when you do head out for your daily exercise - we know you will - you'll be completely hydrated and won't end up out for the count. Cheers!

Water-drinking tips:

Flavour water with lemon juice or slices of orange, or add mint leaves.

If you want to get children hooked on water, serve it in attractive jugs at the table.

Carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go.

Get a lap-belt, hand-holder or bladder for running or walking, especially if you're going to be doing endurance workouts.

Even if you're swimming, have a water bottle at the end of the pool. You sweat in the water.

Make sure your bike has a water bottle carrier and fill that bottle before you head out.

Every morning, drink two glasses of water as soon as you get out of bed. Feel the rush of freshness through your brain and body.

Take a bottle of water for each person for journeys in the car. Children love to have their own special bottle.

Tie drinking water in with a habit that you do every day, like going to the loo. So every time something leaves your body, put something back in.

This Friday, writer Virginia Winder is one of 10 speakers at a PechaKucha night at Puke Ariki called Back To The Future - A Vision for Taranaki. She will be speaking on Future Fit Taranaki. This event is on from 7pm to 9.30pm in the Main Exhibition Gallery.

THE LINKS

australiansportsnutrition.com.au/water–or–cola.php cyclingnz.com/cnz5–science.php?a=111

tepapa.govt.nz/WhatsOn/allevents/Pages/ ScienceExpressJuly2008.aspx zpukeariki.com/WhatsOn/EventDetail/e/566/title/back-to-the- future-pecha-kucha.aspx zjustgot2doit.blogspot.co.nz/

- Taranaki Daily News

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