Hi everyone!  I hope your training is going well!  The weather is getting nicer, so it’s time to get outside and enjoy it.  Whether you’re walking or running, a little vitamin D can go a long way in motivating you to kick-start your training.  That said, it is important to remember to hydrate.  You and your dog will be happy you did.  Our bodies are made up of 2/3 water, and when we sweat, we lose some of that water.  Once you are even 1% dehydrated, your body begins to lose its ability to regulate temperature, i.e. sweat.  This can affect performance among other things.

You may have heard about hyponatremia, or over hydration.  This can cause confusion about how much water to intake before, during, and after a workout.  I actually have an excessive thirst problem, so I have researched quite a bit the consequences of over hydration.  It can actually be more dangerous than dehydration.  Symptoms can be similar to dehydration, including nausea, disorientation, and muscle weakness.

So what is the right amount of water?  There are a few theories I’ve read about.  First is to look at your urine color as an indicator of hydration.  The darker the color, the less hydrated you are.  You should aim for your urine to be pale yellow.  If it is clear, you may be over hydrated, and if it is dark, you may be under hydrated.  This works well as an indicator after the fact, but what about when this test indicates that you’re dehydrated?  The easier test that works preemptively is to pay attention to your body.  How thirsty do you feel?  It has been said that once you feel thirsty you are already on the road to dehydration.  However, thirst is the basic physiological instinct that the body uses to maintain normal levels of body fluids.  More recent studies found that drinking less than thirst dictated resulted in decreased performance, while drinking more than thirst dictated did nothing to enhance performance.  Conclusion?  Drink when you’re thirsty.  It’s that simple!

If you don’t feel confident in relying on your thirst to determine your fluid intake, you can always use weight differential before and after a workout to determine your hydration.  Sweating a lot means you’re losing a lot of fluids.  If you lose more than 2% of your body weight during a workout, you probably need to drink more.  If you gain weight, you have been drinking too much.

So what should you drink?  Water is the best option.  There have been some questions about replacing sodium lost through sweat during workouts, but this shouldn’t be a concern if you have salt in your normal diet.  Studies have shown that the average runner actually loses very little salt during a one- or two-hour run.  That said, sports drink contain more than just sodium to help you recover from a tough workout.  They contain carbohydrates for energy and electrolytes.  The electrolytes help to delay the effects of possible over hydration.

Don’t forget to help Fido hydrate too.  He can’t always tell you when he’s thirsty or when he’s sweating a lot.  You also can’t use the urine test I suggested above.  Dog owners may need to not only lead their dogs to water, but also show them to drink it.  You can check for proper hydration in your dog by a few key indicators.  First, check for a dry nose.  If your dog’s nose is dry, it’s past the time that he should’ve had water.  Even if your dog’s nose is wet, he can still be dehydrated.  Check for elastic skin.  Skin without moisture will remain wrinkled.  Check the back of your dog’s neck by pinching the skin between 2 fingers.  When you let it go, if the skin goes back to laying flat your dog is hydrated.  If the skin remains wrinkled, your dog needs to get some water ASAP!  One final test is to check your dog’s gum tissue.  If you run your finger over your dog’s gums and it feels slimy, your dog is hydrated.  If the gum tissue isn’t slimy, your dog needs to drink.  If you want to get a little more technical with this test, check for capillary refill time.  Pull your dog’s lip up and press your finger firmly against his gums until the tissue appears white-ish in color.  See how long it takes for the gum tissue to turn pink again.  Do this test first when you know your dog is hydrated.  Then, during times of activity, you can compare the length of time it takes for the gums to return to their pink color.  The longer it takes, the less hydrated your dog is.

Just because your dog needs to drink does not mean he’ll automatically want water offered to him.  Tricks are the best way to train dogs to do anything.  You can use treats to entice your dog’s nose to the water bowl, use ice cubes if your dog likes that, or even add a little beef bouillon to the water mixture.

I hope this post is helpful.  Get out there and enjoy the warm weather, but don’t forget to hydrate!