Let your thirst dictate water consumption

Stay Fit

March 31, 2006|By MARY BETH REGAN | MARY BETH REGAN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I just read your column on water. You mention just about everyone - athletes, women, kids, etc. There is no mention of seniors like myself. I'm 80 years old, ride a stationary bike every day and am in good health. How much water should I drink?

Your exercise program sounds great, and I'm glad to hear you are in good health.

To answer your question, I turned to one of the best sources in the area - Dr. William Greenough, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Greenough is a specialist in geriatrics, but don't think he's any young know-it-all. He speaks from experience.

Greenough, 74, has been a member of the Baltimore Road Runners Club since the early 1970s and still runs 20 to 25 miles a week. He ran his last marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, at age 67.

On hydration, he offers simple, straightforward advice. Drink according to thirst and make certain you replace what you are using while you exercise. If you are healthy, and you don't have any kidney ailments, your thirst mechanism is the best sensor for determining fluid intake.

"We like to say the dumbest kidney is smarter than the smartest physician," Greenough says.

He says there's some evidence that the thirst mechanism dulls slightly as people age, so you might want to be more vigilant about replacing fluids before you get too thirsty.

On the issue of what to drink, he points out that when you are exercising strenuously, you are sweating water, salts and other minerals. You want to replace what you have removed.

For endurance athletes, he advises specialized sports drinks that contain water, potassium and sodium. If you suspect that you have a kidney issue, seek medical attention immediately. Otherwise, you should be able to enjoy your exercise program without concern about dehydration.

You've written two articles, one of which states that caffeine before a workout can pep you up and a recent article about water. Is having a diet soda like Diet Coke considered healthy?

Hmm. We all have our vices. Experts say a Diet Coke won't hurt you. But you could be consuming healthier beverages before you head to the gym.

You may be interested to know that the American Dietetic Association has issued guidelines recently urging Americans to drink less soda. Some alternative suggestions: water, milk, coffee, tea and even alcohol.

You might want to hold off on the alcohol, though, especially if you are driving to the gym.

Are you a Stay Fit success? If so, share your story. Please send details to fitness@baltsun.com, or via regular mail to Fitness Q&A, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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