(Continued from Part I)
The Role of Water
In good health, our bodies are comprised of approximately seventy per cent water. In sporting events, if you lose enough water to equal just five per cent of your total body weight, it is considered serious enough dehydration to be cause for medical intervention. All body action (with the exception of death) is dependent upon sufficient water. The body cannot absorb salts nor convert sugars to glycogen without water. Our very survival depends upon the consumption of this precious fluid and in order to thrive we need consume nearly one gallon per day.
In an effort to recover from strenuous activity as rapidly as possible, it is imperative that water be given the highest consideration. If you workout in a cold environment, or sweat little, less water need be consumed after exercise. If you are in the sun and heat, do not skimp on water consumption. Sweat acts as part of a complex cooling system for the body, but it is only effective if the sweat evaporates from your skin or clothing. If sweat is actually dripping off of you it has lost its effectiveness as a cooling agent. In this instance, water should be consumed during activity as well as after. It is also always a good idea to drink water before beginning to exercise.
An early symptom of dehydration is the cessation of perspiration in spite of heavy activity. Intense lethargy is an acute symptom of dehydration and is often more powerful than the sense of thirst. Thirst may return after water has been consumed, it is encouragement to drink more. Scanty urination, or dark yellow urine also indicate the body is dehydrated.
A pint of water weighs one pound, a gallon, eight pounds. Use the bathroom scale to measure body weight before and after activity as a tool in evaluating water loss. This procedure is highly valuable until you become familiar with how much water you lose during various activities and different seasons. Be safe, not sorry. It is better to drink too much than too little.
Fruits and vegetables provide the highest water-to-calorie ratio. Under normal circumstances, most if not all of your need for water can be provided through the consumption of raw plant foods. However, as exertions become more strenuous, or in the presence of sun, wind, and/or heat, water loss is dramatically increased. Drinking water upon arising and before meals is a sensible choice for the active individual. It is also a common sense guide to avoid eating foods that make you thirsty.
The Role of Rest/Sleep
Perhaps the biggest misconception about exercise is that it gives you energy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Exercise requires energy, lots of it. While exercise may leave you stimulated, with a false sense of energy, when the stimulation wears off you will be considerably more tired than when you began. Regular activity does increase overall fitness and accustom one to greater daily energy output. The percentage of total work involved in daily activities decreases as your output increases. Hence, it is correct to say that it seems to take less work to go through the daily chores of living.
It is ideal to rest and sleep enough so that you are not tired when you begin to exercise. When you find that you are feeling drowsy, the best thing to do is sleep. The wisdom of the body ensures that millions of bodily functions occur every minute, and in exactly the correct manner. To exercise when you are tired goes against all logic, like eating when you are full, or sunbathing with a sunburn. When you need sleep, take it. To deny your body its basic need is to flirt with disaster. Your body will tell when you need to rest and when you need to sleep. The real trick is to pay attention to the message. How much sleep do you really need? The answer is simple: "enough".
So how do you know when you have had enough rest and sleep? Instinctively this is very simple. An infant knows. When it has had enough rest and sleep it is motivated to explore its world. Otherwise, it wants to rest more. Intellectually this is a more difficult problem to figure out. But how do you know when you are hungry, thirsty, or need to use the bathroom? We rely on our feelings much more than we give ourselves credit for. When you wake up in the morning, if you feel like getting out of bed, enthusiastic to start the day, you probably had enough sleep. If you wake up drowsy, barely able to begin to move, you've shorted yourself on necessary sleep. If you'd rather roll over than out, maybe you should. If you use an alarm clock to arise, you are systematically cutting your sleep short. It is really very easy to get enough sleep, all one must do is go to bed, much earlier.
Rest comes by degree. To slow from a run to a walk brings relative rest. When attempting to revitalize oneself, it is best to rest as deeply as possible. Of the four types of rest; physical, physiological, sensory, and emotional, only physiological rest is unavailable to us except during sleep and fasting. Complete physical rest is attained by lying down in a comfortable position in pleasant surroundings. Sensory rest is achieved through the closing of eyes and, if necessary, the ears. Emotional rest can be reached, with practice, and is represented by a feeling of calm and detached awareness. Certainly lying down, closing one's eyes and putting one's troubles aside represents a noticeably greater degree of rest than standing, visually observing one's surroundings and worrying about the future. Rest is not "doing nothing." It is an active and valuable pastime.
Any time you are pushing your physical limits in an effort to get into better physical condition, it is important to allow for extra time in bed. When you are in a maintenance program, you will find that less sleep is needed. Like a child who is growing, when you are attempting to adapt to physical stresses in an effort to improve your strength, endurance or speed, you will need plenty of extra sleep. Often, as much as twenty to forty per cent more sleep may be needed . Walking around tired for days and weeks on end invites injury, amotivation, enervation, and sickness. Is it possible to sleep "too much"? No. If it is possible to sleep, your body is telling you that you need to.
Ten Tips for Optimum Athletic Recovery
- Drink water, all you care for, before during and after engaging in strenuous activity.
- Eat fruit upon completion of activity to bring blood sugar back to normal levels and provide sugar for conversion to muscle glycogen.
- Consume celery and/or tomatoes to provide necessary sodium at least several times per week or as often as you participate in strenuous activity.
- When possible, rest after meals to foster optimum digestion.
- Remember, exercise does not provide energy, it requires energy. Sleep as much as you desire.
- During long duration activities, drink sports drinks of fruit blended with water. This works very well. For "ultra" events, add celery to the mixture.
- Monitor your water losses by using a scale to measure your weight before and after workouts.
- Raw foods provide the maximum nutrients for the minimal calories, encouraging the most rapid recovery. Gradually raise the raw percentage of your diet until you approach or reach 100%.
- Develop the habit of going to bed earlier to obtain a good night's sleep.
- Keep meals simple for optimum digestion, and varied to insure optimum nutrition.