Friday 5: Downsides of Dehydration

You know that dehydration is bad. But how so in specific terms? Let us count the ways.

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1. Dehydration can make you slow.

Endurance performance has been to shown to suffer when you lose as little as 2% of your body weight. That’s 3 pounds if you weigh 150, which is not an abnormal loss via sweat over the course of an hour-or-longer workout. As you become dehydrated, the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat decreases. As a result, less oxygen-rich blood goes to your working muscles, and you have to work harder to maintain a given intensity level (or you have to slow to maintain the same effort level). This cascade of events is hastened on warm days, when your body sends more blood to your skin to remove heat from your body.

2. Dehydration can make you weak.

It’s not only your aerobic performance that can be hurt by dehydration. Several studies have found that even mild dehydration can decrease muscular strength and power, especially in the high-weight, low-rep workouts that many busy people do for resistance training. One culprit here is dehydration leading to higher temps within your muscle cells, which inhibits the enzyme activity that contributes to anaerobic energy production.

3. Dehydration can make you hungry.

Many dietitians advise people trying to lose or control their weight to make sure they’re always properly hydrated. The reason? When you’re dehydrated, what you might perceive as appetite can be thirst. So you start munching, and keep munching, getting the food’s water content, but also getting potentially unwanted calories. Better approach: Precede all meals with fluids and more accurately gauge your appetite.

4. Dehydration can make you stupid.

Studies have found that even mild dehydration, such as 1.5% of your body weight, can significantly affect your mental capacity. Like all your other body parts, your brain needs water to function properly. Without it, cognitive traits such as concentration, short-term memory and mathematical accuracy begin to suffer. If you work out before work, or during your lunch break, good hydration is key to being your best at the office.

5. Dehydration can make you unproductive.

The above examples have to do with short-term effects of dehydration. Here we’re talking the big picture. It’s distressingly easy to get chronically dehydrated, especially when you’re active outdoors in warm weather. You might not notice a little bit of dehydration, such as less than 1% of your body weight, on any one day. But when this happens day after day after day, the cumulative effect can be insidious. You might feel like you’re always dragging, or irritable, or depressed, or have digestive problems, or all of the above. The gist is that you’re not your best you. What’s worse, you’re likely to worry that something serious is wrong with you, when all you really need to do is drink up.

Sun Exposure versus Vitamin D Deficiency

What’s Worse: Sun Exposure or Vitamin D Deficiency?

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Outdoor enthusiasts can face a dilemma this time of year: Sunlight can endanger your health, and sunlight can help your health. Should you slather on the sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, or should you allow yourself some exposure so that you get enough vitamin D?

The dangers of sun exposure are well-known. Here’s one of many scary stats: As few as two blistering sunburns during your life can increase your risk of skin cancer by 50 percent. Less dramatically, regular exposure over many years, such as is true of many recreational athletes, can be just as harmful.

In recent years, concerns about skin damage may have made people forget a benefit of sunlight. Your skin converts the sun’s ultraviolet B rays into vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in heart and bone health, as well as a properly functioning immune system. Consider the case of Deena Kastor, the women’s American record holder in the half marathon and marathon. After a few skin cancer scares, Kastor became fastidious about limiting her sun exposure, via sunscreen, hats and clothing with built-in ultraviolet protection. After suffering a broken bone in her foot a few miles into the 2008 Olympic Marathon, Kastor learned she was severely deficient in vitamin D.

So what’s the right course of action here?

Brian Adams, M.D., M.P.H., a sports dermatologist with the University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Veterans Administration Medical Center, puts it this way: “Why jump from your second-floor window when you can take the stairs?” In other words, don’t engage in the risky business of getting adequate vitamin D from sunlight when there’s a safe alternative, namely, your diet.

What’s true in most matters is true here—real food trumps supplements. Research published earlier this year found several favorable health impacts for people with higher vitamin D levels, but only from vitamin D3, the form imparted by food (and sunlight), not vitamin D2, the form found in most supplements. Vitamin D occurs naturally in just a few foods, most notably fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Most people get food-based vitamin D from fortified foods, most notably dairy products.

As for sunscreen, Adams recommends applying 30 minutes before heading outside. “Athletes, like non-athletes, frequently under apply sunscreen,” he says. “A shot glass full of sunscreen is the target amount.” Adams reminds vigorous exercisers that one sunscreen application might not be enough. “Increasing the intensity of the activity, the amount of sweating and the exposure to water” can quickly dissipate the sunscreen you applied pre-workout, he says. “An intense workout with loads of sweating could require reapplying as early as 45 minutes after application.”

If all else fails to convince you of the value of sunscreen, go with aesthetics. Research published last year showed that regular sunscreen use can reduce signs of skin aging, such as wrinkles.

How Kara Goucher Balances Life

A while back we asked our social media fans, “If you could ask Kara Goucher anything about her training, what would you ask her?”

The question we kept hearing back was, “How does she do it all? She’s an elite runner, a wife, a mother; how does she manage to get it all done?”

We asked her, and this is what she said.

The Eternal Search for Balance

By Kara Goucher

People are always asking me how I balance everything in my life.  How do I run full time, raise a child, maintain a healthy relationship with my husband, make meals for my family, and actively participate in the companies that I have partnered with?  The truth is, the balance is constantly shifting, and I am not always great at everything all at once.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot of help.  I have a husband who fully supports my career and steps in when I need more help.  I have family who steps up to help when Adam is out of town.  Colt has a nanny who plays with him in the mornings until I get home from practice.  I abandon some projects at certain times of the year and let other people take over.  I am not great at all of my roles all of the time.

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For me the key is a shifting priority based on where I am in my life at any given time.  Before a major competition, running becomes the priority.  Adam steps up to take Colt to the park and pool because I am trying to nap and rest in preparation for my big race.  The whole family will shift for a month or so and let my running take the lead.  But as soon as it is over, family becomes the main priority again.  Colt and Adam are my number one concern and I focus on special time with them.

When I got injured in March, running became low on the priority list.  I still cross trained everyday, but I focused on my family and the companies I represent.  I traveled and dove into business meetings, brainstorming, and photo-shoots.  I took full advantage of the time away from heavy training to get more out of the business side of my life.  I enjoyed the process tremendously but definitely missed my training.

Kara Family

Now that I am healthy again, the focus is on staying healthy, coming back smart and cautious.  This is actually the time when my life seems the most balanced over all.  Getting back into the grind, not in it enough that I abandon my sponsors, having lots of quality time with my boys.  These are the days when I am pretty good at everything, but not necessarily excellent at anything.

There are times when I focus on my training and my family goes along that ride with me.  And there are times when I focus on my family, and the running is fit in to my family life.  The point is that it is constantly shifting and changing.  For me I look at my life overall- Did I give myself a fair chance to achieve my goals?  Did I let my son and husband know that they are the most important?  Was I a true player in the companies I represent?  While at one time or another one thing may win out, over the course of the year I want there to be balance.

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And that is my point.  You can’t be perfect at everything all of the time.  It is impossible.  Forgive yourself for that.  Do the best you can in the overall scheme of your life.  Your priorities will constantly change, and that’s OK.  Finding balance is about tending to what you need to at that time.  Speaking of which, Colt just asked to go for a late afternoon swim, so I guess we’ll be doing take-out tonight!  Balance!

Life Off-Belay with Nuun

Friend of Nuun, Carson, is currently living life off-belay. What’s life off-belay, you ask? Read more below to find out!

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Tell us a bit about your mission, living life Off-Belay.

Comparisons are often drawn between climbing and the journey we all embark on in life. There are peaks, valleys, treacherous crevasses and points at which the hand holds just seem to run out. A rope and harness are essential pieces of equipment for any climber on a belay team. They offer assurance and security while crossing glaciers or when scaling a sheer face. One day we asked ourselves if this life journey we are on is at its fullest when navigated “on-belay.” Over the past two years we’ve had the ability to see one side of the equation. We enjoyed established corporate careers where we were comfortable, insured and safe. This journey allows us to give the debate a fair shake and dive head first into the flip side of the conversation. We decided to take our rope team off-belay to embrace a life of adventure and meaningful relationships following the Pan-American Highway from Seattle to Patagonia (offbelay-americas.com).

How long have you been on the road now?

Just over six months.

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Have you had any close calls?

Driving in Mexico kept us on our toes, especially at night. To improve our odds we charted a route that took us through Mexican states that weren’t notorious for documented violence. Sadly, while we were in the country another American overland traveler on a motorcycle disappeared in a Mexican state that we opted not to travel through. Near the city of Guadalajara there was one incident that shook us involving automatic weapons, scores of Mexican Federale Police, trucks and spotlights but once they realized they had the wrong guys we emerged unscathed.

How has Nuun helped?

When traveling through developing countries as we have with a strong interest in trying almost every type of new food it is only a matter of time before one gets sick. It is just a reality of the road we are on. Once stomach sickness sets in dehydration quickly follows through one of its various forms. During these times Nuun tablets have been crucial in getting us back on the road to recovery. Easy to drink and full of electrolytes, Nuun allows us to recoup much of what is lost through the suffering while we contemplate whether our dietary choices were worth it.

What are your favorite Nuun flavors?

My favorite Nuun flavor has to be Lemon Lime. Up in the mountains we like to go light and fast which means we only carry around two liters of water per person at any given time. Using Iodine to purify our water saves weight, but also leaves a chemical taste that grows old after a couple of days. Nuun tablets are the easiest solution for this problem in the mountains and give us the added benefits of recharging us with electrolytes at the same time.

Have you shared Nuun with anyone you’ve met on your journey? Any good stories there?

While navigating on a single dirt track through the mountains of Guatemala we suddenly came upon road construction that wouldn’t permit us to pass until the next morning. Making due with the situation we found a rural single pump gas station that seemed secure and agreed to let us camp out for the night. Being the only gringos for miles in any direction always attracts a certain degree of attention, especially from kids. While we cooked our dinner on the tailgate of the Land Cruiser a number of kids came by with curious eyes. Not wanting to disappoint their intrigue we pulled out two tubes of Nuun tablets and let them first try them as candy and then in water. The look of shock on their faces when the tablet sizzled in their mouths was hilarious but they enjoyed the flavors regardless. As we sat down to enjoy our dinner they walked away with a tube a piece and a story to share with their friends about the crazy gringos they met.

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What has life Off Belay taught you so far, and how do you think our readers can apply these lessons to their 9-5 lives?

Life Off-Belay has taught us heaps of lessons that remain worthy for across different types of lives. Three specific lessons come to mind. The first is that every single person knows something interesting that you don’t. We have met hundreds of new people from hosts of different countries along the way and I can guarantee this fact is indeed true. The second lesson is to take the trials and tribulations that life throws us with a problem solving mentality. Never accept defeat instead take the time to pull back, brainstorm and move forward with inspired creativity. The final lesson learned is to critically think about what balance looks like in your life. Each person was created unique and thrives on a different combination of work, hobbies, fulfillment and relaxation. Finding one’s special blend takes time, thought and maybe even trial and error but the effort applied is absolutely worth it.

Where to next?

We’ve been climbing for the past month in the Cordillera Blanca Range of the Andes just outside of Huaraz, Peru. In a week we will drive south to Lima to pick up a friend from University who recently quit his job at a think tank in Washington DC and is coming to join us Off-Belay.