Photos by Cora Maglaya, PT, ATC, CSCS
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Serious athletes know it is important to hydrate during sports activities. Proper hydration helps improves muscle function, cools body temperature, and improves concentration. But happens when the perfect storm happens? Imagine you are at a major match. You drink coffee for breakfast, a high sugar electrolyte drink during the match and one not-so-healthy drink with dinner the night before. It is also 105°F at the range. By the time your body physically feels thirsty you are already dehydrated and you need to play catch up.
ABOUT HEAT EXHAUSTION AND HEAT STROKE
Temperatures at the USPSA range officer class in Phoenix, Arizona reached 118F degrees. Four USPSA Nationals have been held in Las Vegas with temperatures of up to 100°F to 112°F.
During dehydration, the body quickly loses fluids and electrolytes needed for muscle function. Dehydration in shooters on hot range days can quickly escalate to heat exhaustion. This is when the body’s core temperature reaches 98.5°F to 104°F (37°C to 40°C). Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, headache, weakness, dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, vomiting, chills, and cramps.
More serious cases of heat exhaustion can result in heat stroke. In heat stroke the body’s core temperature reaches 104°F to 112°F (40°C to 44°C). The symptoms that are distinctly different from heat exhaustion are unsteadiness with movement, poor muscle control, confusion and seizures. More serious measures of heat stroke treatment include hospitalization and body submerged ice baths.
To prevent dehydration at your next major match, here are seven tips that every shooter should know:
1. EAT YOUR WATER
During your next grocery trip to the supermarket, buy fruits and vegetables. Foods such grapefruit, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, and lettuce, are all packed with high water content and have tons of nutrients. The water content will help with body temperature regulation, transport glucose, oxygen, and fat to your tired muscles, and help with digestion and waste product removal.
2. QUICK HYDRATION TEST
A quick test to do while traveling on the road is to look in the toilet. The color of your urine should be light or faint yellow if you are properly hydrating. Dark yellow is a bad sign and is a huge indicator of dehydration. Drink more fluids until the urine color becomes light yellow or is clear. Another testing option which is more advanced, is to weigh yourself both before and after the activity to calculate how much you are sweating. This is referred to as your sweat rate.
3. THE MATCH HANGOVER
This tip can make you a hero amongst your friends. When the match is over and you are celebrating with your friends with adult beverages there may be moments when you wake up the next morning with a severe headache, your head feels like it is in a vice grip, your stomach feels sours, and you are feeling nauseous. That severe headache is typically caused from dehydration. To avoid the morning hangover, drink two to three glasses before bed and take both extra strength aspirin and an antacid. (Familiar antacids are Tums and Pepto Bismol.) Add in some supplements for energy including B1 (thiamine), a multivitamin and folate. Also hydrate with a low sugar electrolyte drink.
4. BE CRITICAL SELECTING SPORTS DRINKS
Popular sports drinks such as Gatorade, Propel and Powerade are electrolyte replacement drinks. When dehydration occurs, the body becomes deficient in minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The sports drinks are looking to replace those lost minerals and help the digestive system absorb fluid and provide energy to your muscles. A potent electrolyte drink with minimal sugar is Pedialyte. This can be found in selected drugs stores. Pedialyte has a much higher potency than traditional sports drinks. When selecting sports drinks, choose ones that are sugar-free or low-sugar electrolyte drinks.
5. RAPID TREATMENT FOR DEHYDRATION
When a shooter has any symptoms of feeling lethargic, faint, dizzy, and nauseous, they are already in trouble. These are signs of heat exhaustion and have the potential to escalate into a more serious condition called heat stroke. To cool the body temperature quickly at the range, get a towel. (Use a t-shirt if you can not find a towel.) Dunk the towel in ice cold water, place some ice cubes in the middle, and roll the towel up like a burrito. Drape the towel with ice cubes around the neck. Place another towel soaked in ice water on the forehead. The towel on the neck sends messages rapidly to the brain that it does not need to go in emergency fight or flight mode and the body is safe. Loosen any tight clothing and get the shooter in the coolest shaded area quickly. In situations where the shooter complains of feeling faint or is observed looking faint, lay the individual flat on their back and elevate their legs and feet on a higher surface.
6. POST-EXERCISE RECOVERY DRINK
After exercise, the body has been depleted of electrolytes and protein. The Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences expert, Kelly Pritchett PhD, studied low fat chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery beverage.
There is a 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio in chocolate mild which is excellent for fluid and sodium replenishment and providing both muscle recovery. Low fat chocolate milk distinctly differs from sports drinks in that it helps nourish muscle glycogen replenishment.
7. COCONUT WATER
Coconut water has unique benefits. Dehydrated athletes need mineral replenishment of sodium and potassium for muscle function and carbohydrates for exercise performance. Coconut water will not replenish carbohydrates and is low in both calories and sodium. However, it is packed with lots of healthy nutrients and is high in potassium. If you are dehydrated and are choosing between water alone and coconut water, coconut water is a better option for hydration. Be careful not to drink in high quantity as it has been known to be a laxative when consumed in large amounts.
The take home message is that you should be proactive rather than reactive when creating your hydration plan for optimal health. Use these tips to make sure you are properly cooling your body temperature and hydrating your body so you can feel energized, focused, and maximize your shooting performance.
Caution: Consult with your medical physician for evaluation and treatment of your health. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or replace your physician.
Cora Maglaya, PT, ATC, CSCS
Adrenaline Sports Media, LLC