Fitness in the Desert-Hydration

I grew up in the SF bay area, a place with very mild climate. Yes, we got a couple of triple digit days a year, but in general the humidity was mild, it never got too hot or too cold, and I never really worried about hydration.

When I got to Arizona, it became a significant concern. I wasn’t going to let the climate curtail my activities, but suddenly, hydration became a huge deal. Even in the winter time when the temperatures are very pleasant, the humidity is so low that water is just wicked out of your body at phenomenal rates. In the summer, when the temperatures are in triple digits for three months, humidity is in the 20’s, you really need to be careful.

Water is important, but unless you are exercising for only a brief time, you need something that will help replace your electrolytes. I am definitely one of those who puts more salt out in their sweat, so anytime I am out for more than a half hour I have to rely on supplement.

My top hydration product I use is Accelerade. It is a mixture of carbs, electrolytes, and protein. This combination really helps keep me going for longer rides. I typically mix it a little weak. The amount for a pint, mixed into 24 or 32 ounces is about perfect. However, I can’t just have accelerade, even mixed weak.  I have to have water with me as well. With this combo, I can easily go for 3 or 4 hours even in 110F temperatures. The one down side is that it causes me to retain water like crazy. After a day of riding or hiking, I will actually gain 3 pounds or so of water weight.

When I am less aggressive in my exercise, I use a product called Nuun. These are tablets that you add to a pint of water. Mildly flavored, it has no carbohydrates, and a good mix of electrolytes. This is good for medium exertion efforts, my lunchtime jogs, mid distance walks, and when I cycle to and from the office. We discovered this product when we were preparing to hike the grand canyon. Space and weight were crucial considerations. We saw these little tubes full of hydration tablets and just popped them in our basket. Fast forward three years, and I rediscovered them, and am now a religious user.

One product that I prefer not to use is Gatorade. It really has too much sugar in it for while I am exercising, and it is too heavy when I am recovering.  I just don’t like it.

As a sufferer of coronary artery disease, I try to keep a low sodium diet. That works when I am not exercising, but when I exercise I quickly get the symptoms of hyponatremia, and that is far more dangerous than having too much sodium.  So I walk a fine line in balance, monitor my weight, and my blood pressure daily to understand where I am (and of course, I take lots of medicine)

All part of life in the desert.