By Steve Pendergrass

With summer in full swing, dehydration is a serious concern for all hard-training martial artists. The normal order of symptoms for those who fall victim to it is: thirst, fatigue, loss of coordination, confusion, irritability, dry skin, decreased urine production and elevated body temperature. If left unchecked, dehydration can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke has an 80-percent mortality rate. Of the 20 percent who survive, many wind up with a permanently impaired ability to regulate their own body temperature, predisposing them to future heat injury.

to heat stroke. Heat stroke has an 80-percent mortality rate. Of the 20 percent who survive, many wind their own body temperature, predisposing them to

For every two pounds of water you lose, your heart rate will increase by eight beats per minute, resulting in decreased cardiac output, increased respiration and reduced work output. Furthermore, the water loss will increase your body temperature by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time you're thirsty, it's too late; you're already 2-percent

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dehydrated. At 4 percent, you're unable to perform your job efficiently. At 7 percent, you'll experience severe vomiting, and at 10 percent, you'll be dead.

Your body's need for water is obvious: Some 60 percent of it is made of water. The brain itself is 75-percent water, as are the muscles. The blood is 92 percent, and even the bones are 22 percent.

Studies have shown that Olympic athletes are up to 3.5-percent slower in competition when they're 2-percent dehydrated. While engaged in light athletic activity, the body can loose eight to 16 ounces of water an hour. In active conditions, such as those endured by athletes, that number can jump to 32 ounces an hour.

Consuming the proper amount of an appropriate beverage is essential. Drinks with more than 10-percent carbohydrates have a tendency to slow the uptake of water and electrolytes. Therefore, it's recommended that during normal exercise, you should drink eight ounces of water every 15 minutes. During a normal day, you should drink 12 cups of water, above and beyond what you need during exercise. The general rule is to drink half your body weight in ounces. During extreme activity, it's important to replenish your electrolytes, as well. For every cup of water, drink a cup of Gatorade or some other sports drink.

One reason monitoring your water intake is so crucial for martial artists is it controls your internal temperature, which is determined by your body's ability to dissipate heat. In the dojo, you're often exercising in a warm environment, and you're probably wearing a gi made of thick cotton. During a strenuous workout, your muscles generate 100 times more heat than when they're at rest. You have to get rid of that heat to maintain an average temperature of 98.6 degrees. Your heart rate and respiration increase, and you sweat. Unless you remove that heat, your body temperature will increase 1.8 degrees every eight minutes, with collapse occurring within 15 to 20 minutes. The following guidelines will help you avoid that fate:

Before class:

• Drink plain water throughout the day.

• Avoid beverages that contain caffeine.

• Expect to urinate every hour. During class:

• Begin drinking water before the session starts.

• Drink during breaks.

• When working out for more than one hour, drink juice diluted with water or an electrolyte-replacement fluid.

After class:

• Continue drinking fluids until you go to bed.

• Drink an electrolyte replacement, especially in summer.

• If you feel any cramping, drink more of the electrolyte replacement or the juice-water mixture. >•<

About the author: Steve Pendergrass is a captain in the Kern County (California) Fire Department. A paramedic for more than nine years, he also teaches budoshin jujutsu. For more information, visit and click on Community, then Black Belt Authors.

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