A Vet’s Advice On Dehydration And How to Avoid It

Health & Fitness
Photo by Sgt. Timothy Koster

As the mercury rises — and we are in the thick of it — it can be hard to keep hydration at an optimal level to ensure quality exercise, avoid fatigue, and prolong endurance. Soldiers, sailors, athletes, spouses and kids; no one is immune to dehydration.


Dehydration is a general term used to mean loss of water. There are several kinds of dehydration, but for my purpose here, I want to talk about the most common kind, which occurs when water intake isn’t enough to replace free water lost. Your body can lose water through normal physiologic processes like going to the bathroom, sweating, and simple exhalation, or abnormal processes like throwing up, diarrhea, or blood loss.

Anyone who’s been to the sandbox knows what it’s like to drag ass; every endurance athlete has battled a poor performance; every booze hound has faced an awful morning because of it. I’ve been all of the above: sandbox dweller, athlete, and booze hound, and all to the extreme. Dehydration ain’t pretty. But I know how to fight and even prevent it.

In 2008, I raced Ironman Arizona and it was a toughie. In the words of Ironman columnist Lee Gruenfeld, “Temperatures in the mid-90s and enervating winds on the outbound leg of the three-loop bike course conspired to plant this season's opening event firmly into the record books as having the third highest dropout rate in Ironman history. Nearly 18% of the field failed to make it to the finish line.”

As I rode past both elite and amateur athletes under emergency medical care on side of the road, I decided to double my gatorade intake. During the run, I chowed on bananas for potassium and drank water for hydration, broth for salt, and cola for sugar.

Whatever I did was just enough because I was on the edge of collapse. I’ve never written about that race, but let’s just say, I finished, barely, covered in my own throw up. I’d properly hydrated before the race, but I hadn’t taken in enough electrolytes and micronutrients to allow me to finish strong. Lesson learned.

Anyone’s body can begin to fail due to dehydration. Milder symptoms include thirst, headache, fatigue, and irritability. As a dehydration situation becomes more dire, failure of the mind follows. Then we start looking at severe symptoms: delirium, dangerous spikes in heart and respiration rates, shock, and fainting.

Registered dietician Nutritionist Sara Burrill, a Navy veteran and one of my two favorite sisters, explains, “If a healthy, well-hydrated person loses 15% of bodily fluids, organs can begin to fail. A person of average health will see similar symptoms at 12% fluid loss.” As organs fail, you die. Don’t die.

Before you shrivel into oblivion, drop your kid, or pass out on the track, implement these ways to stay hydrated.

Drink water.

You can last for days without food, but water is absolutely essential to bodily function. Follow  the “8x8” rule (eight eight-ounce glasses each day) as a baseline and increase as weather or conditions dictate. I suggest eight additional ounces of fluid for every 15 minutes of vigorous activity. I take in a gallon of water per day, at a minimum, but keep in mind that drinking too much water can lead to hyponatremia. I recently went through this when too much water in the body diluted the sodium content in my blood. So be smart and at least get your 8x8 down the hatch.

Replenish electrolytes.

Minerals found in the blood, called electrolytes, help control the amount of water your body retains. Coconut water and sports drinks are great ways to replenish when your body is in need of trace minerals, salt, and sugar. I avoid sports drinks and prefer coconut water, if necessary. Coconut water is lower in carbohydrates, but rich in potassium.

Monitor water loss.

If you are banging out workouts like a boss, weigh yourself before and after, even if you’re sipping during the workout. For every pound you lose, drink an additional 16 ounces. Losing too much water during the course of a workout leads to muscle cramps, dizziness, and loads of other complications. Have hydration nearby with every workout. Run with a handheld bottle, sports belt, or your camelback. (Mine is camo and I think it’s pretty badass.)

Get color conscious.

Check out your urine. It should be a pale yellow. Anything too dark indicates dehydration, but keep in mind certain foods, like beets and supplements, can alter the color. If your pee is clear or borderline clear, you might be overly hydrated. This isn’t exact science, but can be helpful, especially when your kid is acting out of whack after a park play date.

Eat your water.

Foods carry varying levels of water. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database, cucumbers top the water-logged fruit and veggie scale at 95% and have a decent nutrient content, watermelon is 93% water and full of trace minerals, and strawberries come in at 92% and a healthy dose of fiber and vitamin C. Bananas don’t have as much water, but are potassium rich, one of those trace minerals essential to bodily function. Celery and lettuce aren’t as nutrient rich, but pack serious hydration. I throw them and/or bananas into my mixer and make calorie and nutrient-rich smoothies as meal replacements when I’m on the go. Here’s an example recipe from my blog, and every month I have a superfood smoothie column you can check out in Iron Man magazine.

Avoid alcohol.

Sad as it may be, alcohol is dehydrating and should be avoided before any strenuous activity. It’s also taxing on the body to exercise or do hard work with a hangover. My college days of waking up with a buzz and running Boston’s Charles River are over. That’s what happens when you get old; you get a little smarter about these things, hopefully.

Plan ahead to avoid dehydration. Carry water with you throughout the day and drink it before you get thirsty. If you have a big workout or upcoming mission, up your intake and stay off the sauce. Use common sense. Your body will thank you with heightened performance, clarity of mind, and radiant skin.

Being dehydrated in the field can mean life or death. You owe it to you comrades and loved ones to be operating at an optimum level.

Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.

"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.

"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."

The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.

On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.

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Maj. Matthew Golsteyn in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Philip Stackhouse.)

President Donald Trump has ended the decade-long saga of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn by ordering a murder charge against the former Green Beret dismissed with a full pardon.

The Army charged Golsteyn with murder in December 2018 after he repeatedly acknowledged that he killed an unarmed Afghan man in 2010. Golsteyn's charge sheet identifies the man as "Rasoul."

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(Screenshot from 'Leavenworth')

President Donald Trump has signed a full pardon for former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed.

Lorance will now be released from the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he had been serving a 19-year sentence.

"He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence he received. Many Americans have sought executive clemency for Lorance, including 124,000 people who have signed a petition to the White House, as well as several members of Congress," said a White House statement released Friday.

"The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted. For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, 'when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.'"

Additionally, Trump pardoned Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who was to go on trial for murder charges next year, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murdering a wounded ISIS prisoner but convicted of taking an unauthorized photo with the corpse.

Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth first announced on Nov. 4 that the president was expected to intervene in the Lorance case was well as exonerate Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who has been charged with murder after he admitted to killing an unarmed Afghan man whom he believed was a Taliban bomb maker, and restore Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's rank to E-7.

For the past week, members of Lorance's family and his legal team have been holding a constant vigil in Kansas anticipating his release, said Lorance's attorney Don Brown.

Now that he has been exonerated of committing a war crime, Lorance wants to return to active duty, Brown told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

"He loves the Army," Brown said prior to the president's announcement. "He doesn't have any animosity. He's hoping that his case – and even his time at Leavenworth – can be used for good to deal with some issues regarding rules of engagement on a permanent basis so that our warfighters are better protected, so that we have stronger presumptions favoring warfighters and they aren't treated like criminals on the South Side of Chicago."

In the Starz documentary "Leavenworth," Lorance's platoon members discuss the series of events that took place on July 2, 2012, when the two Afghan men were killed during a patrol in Kandahar province.They claim that Lorance ordered one of his soldiers to fire at three Afghan men riding a motorcycle. The three men got off their motorcycle and started walking toward Afghan troops, who ordered them to return to their motorcycle.

At that point, Lorance ordered the turret gunner on a nearby Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to shoot the three men, according to the documentary. That order was initially ignored, but the turret gunner eventually opened fire with his M-240, killing two of the men.

But Lorance told the documentary makers that his former soldiers' account of what happened was "ill-informed."

"From my experience of what actually went down, when my guy fired at it, and it kept coming, that signified hostile intent, because he didn't stop immediately," Lorance said in the documentary's second episode.

Brown argues that not only is Lorance innocent of murder, he should never have been prosecuted in the first case.

"He made a call and when you look at the evidence itself, the call was made within a matter of seconds," Brown said "He would make that call again."

The new Call of Duty Modern Warfare takes gaming to a new level. In fact, it's the best damn video game of 2019 (in my humble opinion).

You can watch video of the awesome gameplay for CoD above, and make sure to follow the Task & Purpose team on Twitch here.

This post was sponsored by GoatGuns.Com. Use the code TP15 for 15% off your next order.

A new trailer just dropped for the upcoming World War I action flick The Great War.

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