by Lene Baxter
Georgia summers are like sitting in an oven for most of the day. The heat index in the summer can regularly go over 100 degrees! On days like that, it is vital to be smart about hydration! Don’t be fooled into thinking that kiteboarding is simply a hobby. It is a sport and, if you’re a kiteboarder, you’re an athlete. Proper hydration is more important for athletes than for the average person. Simply because you’re staying cool in the water kiteboarding, doesn’t mean you don’t need to stay hydrated!
If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated! Being smart about hydration is essential for peak performance while kiting. When a person becomes dehydrated, it decreases their ability to sweat and cool their core temperature. Having an insufficient intake of fluids leads to fatigued muscles, reduced coordination, cramps and heat injuries. In a sport where it is important that you stay focused for your safety and others, these side effects of poor hydration can lead to a very dangerous situation.
So, how much and what should I eat and drink while kiteboarding? Well, ensuring you are taking proper care of your body doesn’t just occur during the session. It is important to do the right things both before and after the session as well. When thinking about what you should eat, try to stay away from “quick and easy” food such as candy, junk food or fast food. These foods provide a quick burst of energy, but it won’t last and you’ll find your energy starting to crash during your session. Fruits, vegetables, energy gels and energy bars are good snacks prior to kiteboarding. While everyone is different, you can use a basic guideline to determine how much fluid you should intake before, during and after a session. Two to three hours before a session, drink 15-20 fl oz of water and drink an additional 8-10 fl oz 10-15 minutes before starting. During your session, remember to drink 8-10 fl oz every 10-15 minutes. If your session lasts longer than 90 minutes, drink 8-10 fl oz of a sports drink (such as Gatorade) every 15-30 minutes. If you don’t want to interrupt your session on the water, try a hydration pack (commonly called a “camelback”). Dakine makes a wide variety of hydration packs that will allow you to stay hydrated without interrupting your session. Before and after a kiting, you should weigh yourself. Doing this allows you to see how much weight you lost and allows you to understand how much fluid you need to replace. Drink 20-24 oz for every pound lost. Additionally, when eating after a session, consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 2 hours.
Am I dehydrated? One of the first signs of poor hydration is being thirsty. Listen to your body! It’s telling you that you need water! A very easy way to measure hydration is by the color of your urine (gross, but quite accurate!). If your urine is a dark brown color, that is really bad! Drink lots of water immediately! When you are well hydrated, your urine will only have a pale yellow color to it. When your urine is completely clear, be careful and slow down your fluid intake. Though it is rare, it is possible to drink too much water. Hyponatremia, or water intoxication, can cause a low concentration of sodium in the blood and is classified as a medical emergency. As you focus on proper hydration, you will get a better feel about how much fluid intake is appropriate for you as an athlete.
Poor hydration leads to heath exhaustion, which leads to heat stroke which leads to a terrible day for you! The symptoms of heat exhaustion include: nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache, pale and moist skin, fast and weak pulse, disorientation, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness and fainting. To treat heat exhaustion, stop all activities and rest! Drink cool beverages, take a cool shower or bath and remove any extra clothing. Untreated head exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. The main difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke is the presence of confusion. The neurological system is affected and can cause off behavior, delusions, hallucinations and eventually seizures or coma. When suffering a heat stroke, the victim will usually also have dry skin with a lack of sweating and a fast pulse. Athletes can suffer what is called an exertional heat stroke. With this type of heat stroke, the victim will continue to sweat despite increased core temperature. If an athlete’s core temperature is above 105 degrees, then they are suffering from a heat stroke. They experience other similar symptoms such as mental status changes, confusion, disorientation and clumsiness. To treat a heat stroke, reduce the body temperature by cooling the body. Remove tight or unnecessary clothing and spray the person with water. Ice packs can be placed at the neck, groin and armpits to accelerate cooling. Heat injuries are very serious, so it’s important to treat them as such! Once you suffer from a heat injury, it becomes easier for you to suffer additional injuries in the future!
It is quite common to see kiteboarders on the beach without water. We go out and kite aggressively to progress and forget that we need to take care of our bodies. You don’t see people go to the gym or to play other sports without bringing water, so why kiteboard without water? Taking care of your body is the first step to becoming a better kiteboarder!