Summer Runs, Your Body and Hydration!
February 2023 was recorded as the hottest February the country of India has witnessed in the last 122 years of keeping track. And to reiterate, it was JUST the month of February with April and May staring at us with a literal fire in their heart and soul. Getting out of the four walls of your house is as good as having a sit down at the sauna and sweating it out. It is one of the many challenges every Indian faces in the summers, which is to bear the unbearable.
For people who are accustomed to spending a great deal of time out of the comfort of their homes and the constant air conditioning and the easily available shade, the Indian summers plain and simply, play spoilsport. It is as good as taking on the sun and its constantly radiating energy as a mortal enemy.
But at the next level are those who play sports or indulge in sporting activities. If you’re a runner or jogger or even a person who needs a walk everyday, the unforgiving summers can be, well, unforgiving. The very thought of taking on a kilometre or two in the sun is just demotivating at the least.
But a dedicated runner will take this on as a challenge. And the most challenging part of taking on the sunny summers? HYDRATION!
So is there a specific way to get about this challenge? Is there a POA to keep yourself hydrated while trying to beat the very thing that is draining you of resources? Let’s find out!
First things first, what makes us need more water when we physically exert ourselves? And what makes it even more crucial when we do it on a bright sunny day? To understand that, we need to dig into how our bodies work!
Why does our body heat up?
Our bodies run a bit like the steam locomotives from back in the day. For any kind of movement produced, the heat from the burning coal and bustling steam was a definite byproduct. Our muscles too produce heat as a by-product of generating energy which is required for movement.
But then again, our bodies also have the responsibility to ensure that the body temperature doesn’t shoot way up and we essentially burn out.
Sweating is cool!
That’s where the defence mechanism of sweating comes in. Now when we sweat, the pores on our skin release a combination of water and electrolytes, which are nothing but the minerals or salts present in our bodies. Now the water on our skin won’t just stay there, will it?
Imagine this. You heat up a pan with absolutely nothing in it. When it is smoking hot, you do something oddly satisfying. You sprinkle a few drops of cool water on it and you get that fizzing sound with some smoke or vapour. What happened there was that the pan got a bit cooler because the water that came in contact with the pan used the heat from the pan itself to evaporate and fizz out, thereby reducing the overall temperature of the pan.
Sweat pretty much works like the sprinkled water and our body like the pan. When our bodies heat up and sweat, the water beads on the surface of our skin use the heat from our body itself to evaporate, lowering the temperature of the body and keeping us safe.
That’s how we lose water while reducing body temperature during a workout or exertion. And on a sunny day, with the temperatures already quite high, the body temperature is high just to begin with. There’s a good chance that you will be sweating without even moving a muscle, just to beat the heat from the sun while standing idle.
Sweat vs the weather.
But would you be surprised to know that sometimes this mechanism of sweating doesn’t work too well? Don’t worry, nothing’s wrong with the body. It has something to do with the weather your body is exposed to.
Do you know that peculiar sticky-icky feeling of the sweat staying back on our skin? The first words out of our mouths are,
“It’s humid today, isn’t it?”
Simply put, high humidity is when the water vapour content in the air is really high. And there is an upper limit with respect to how much water the air can hold. If the vapour content in the air reaches a point of saturation, a situation where the air just shouts out,
“THAT’S IT! I AM DONE! NO MORE WATER COMES IN!”
The sweat on the surface of our skin will not evaporate, basically because it has nowhere to go! So it just stays there.
But if you recollect, this isn’t just plain water right? The electrolytes in this sweat remain back on the surface of the skin and clog the pores, throwing the process of thermoregulation into disarray. Additionally, this unevaporated sweat on the skin tends to cause rashes and irritation as well.
This is one of the reasons why athletes douse themselves in water in the middle of any physically tolling activity; to wash the sweat and electrolytes off the skin, free up the pores and get the process of perspiration back on track. That solves one problem, the one of accumulation of sweat. But what about the problem of the sun draining your body of water?
The solution should be plain, simple and straightforward right? Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. That’s all there is to it. Or is there?
Well, we’re here to burst that bubble! Simply drinking water may not be the best solution to this problem. Let us remind you once again, it isn’t just water that your body is being drained of; it is the electrolytes too. Water does contain electrolytes that we need to function and survive. But that’s just in trace quantities.
Moreover, consuming just water by itself after sweating it out for hours at a stretch throws you into the crosshairs of another condition- Hyponatremia. Don’t let the name of the condition scare you as it is pretty simple to explain.
Your body sweats out and loses sodium at a high rate during physical activities on a hot day. You feel thirsty at the end of a workout and consume water. Since water doesn’t have enough sodium content, the concentration of sodium in the blood takes a hit and goes down. A low level of sodium in the blood is scientifically called hyponatremia.
But what does hyponatremia imply? Well, lack of sodium in the body means a bout of nausea, vomiting, headache, seizure, muscle weakness, lack of energy and can even put you in a coma. Didn’t that escalate quickly? So let’s quickly tell you the remedy!
The perfect “solution”.
The solution to this conundrum doesn’t mean you take the entire jar of salt from the kitchen and start gobbling away. To replace the loss in your body, consume sports drinks which are easily accessible and available. A sachet of ORS mixed into water and then consumed works too!
If you are a person who prefers something a bit more appetising and kind on the palate, effervescence tablets mixed with water is one way to go.
If you’re a person who is not really a fan of sports drinks, take what nature has to offer and get some nariyal pani instead. (PS: Don’t go for bottled coconut water. Get the real thing from your local bhaiyya! Nothing beats an OG.)