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Posted on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

Do you know how much (and what) to drink to maintain safe hydration?

By Melissa Gerharter MS, RD

We have had a few really hot days already in June, and I found myself emphasizing hydration with my clients. My advice wasn’t just to drink water — for some, hydrating with an electrolyte solution is important, too.

Most of our fluids and electrolytes are spontaneously consumed with our meals throughout the day and are taken in without a direct response to being thirsty.

But is that enough for most athletes? Maybe.

While there are many guidelines for water intake, one of the ones I use as a reference for athletes is 3.7 liters per day for men and 2.7 liters per day for women. This clearly has to be tweaked depending on the individual's activity, environment and sweat rate.

Three electrolytes that are of importance with athletes are sodium chloride, potassium and calcium. Large losses of sodium chloride in sweat can lead to increased heat-related problems, hyponatremia and muscle cramps.

Potassium loss in sweat is far less than sodium. The loss of calcium in the sweat will increase the dietary need of calcium in active people.

The easiest way to determine if you are well hydrated is the color of your urine. If it looks like the color of lemonade, you are more than likely well hydrated. If it looks like your Bell’s Oberon beer, perhaps you should take a few more steps to get your body back into a hydrated state.

Some tips to stay hydrated and put your best effort in for your event are to have one ounce of liquid per 10 pounds of bodyweight two hours before your event. During your event, have a few sips of liquid every 10 to 30 minutes to help maintain hydration.

After exercise, drinking 24 ounces per pound of bodyweight lost during exercise will help rehydrate your body. Consuming sodium chloride will help speed rehydration.

A hydrated athlete is a better athlete. Below are some tips to encourage drinking:

  • Take fluid with you.
  • Know where to find fluid.
  • Drink early and often, but don't overdrink.
  • Practice drinking during training.
  • Pour more into your stomach than on your head.
  • Have a variety of beverages to choose from.
  • Drink by schedule, not by thirst.

Bottoms up!

Melissa Gerharter MS, RD, CSSD is co-owner of Joust Strength and Fitness of Ann Arbor, She is also a personal trainer and an adjunct lecturer at Eastern Michigan University. She can be reached at


Rork Kuick

Fri, Jun 3, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

I've always been skeptical about extra sodium, since quite a few african, new guinea, and native american people (like Yanomamo) use no salt at all, in rather hot places, while we consume sodium like crazy. Very low salt intake, and elevated aldosterone and renin levels, were "probably the norm for man during much of human evolution" (Circulation, Vol 52, 146-151 - it's my old boss, J.V.Neel). "Natural" does not prove it is good though. However, I thought most docs here are telling people to reduce their sodium. "Large loss" is so very vague. There are reviews out there about how much sodium is really best, and it's tricky, I admit (J. Am. Coll. Nutr., June 1, 2006; 25(3): 165 - 169.). (Did ya see the amazing tricks I did in there? I called them "references". They point to scientific papers.)