What else can I do to alleviate my dehydration problem?
July 1, 2017 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Despite drinking what feels like a lot of water, exercising on hot days leaves me with a headache and mild nausea for the rest of the day. It's getting old and I'd like it to stop.

Today I drank about three large glasses of water and a coffee in the morning before my [sport] lesson, had my hour-long lesson, drank some more water from the hose, then about a liter of water on the hour drive home. I'm not sure I can make myself drink any more water than this. It was about 87 degrees, humid and sunny. I still had a headache and felt mildly queasy for a couple hours. It eventually went away after a nap, an advil, a snack, and walking the dog.

I've even tried drinking extra the night before. This only happens when it's hot and only started happening to me last summer. I would like to not lose my entire afternoon after these things.

If it matters - they're horseback riding (jumping) lessons, outdoors. It's not like I'm running a marathon or something.
posted by sepviva to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Electrolytes. You need to add electrolytic salts to some of your water.
posted by Thella at 9:20 PM on July 1, 2017 [24 favorites]

To make getting electrolytes a treat, I put some "salt substitute" (aka potassium chloride) on sea salt and vinegar potato chips.
posted by 445supermag at 9:47 PM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Coffee dehydrates you rather than hydrates (although if you typically have a cup every day, not drinking it could cause or exacerbate a headache). Did you eat anything at all prior to your lesson?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:48 PM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you sure this is about dehydration? That's a lot of water, and not too extreme heat. Could be migraine brought on by heat as a trigger?

(I thought the coffee dehydration thing had been debunked but maybe I'm not up to the newest research)
posted by The Toad at 9:52 PM on July 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have a pituitary tumor that makes me extra super heat sensitive and also causes diabetes insipidus so hydration is a huge thing for me. I'm really careful about my fluid intake, but when I was going to the gym on the regular, I absolutely needed to eat a bag of beef jerky after. I could drink all the water and electrolyte fluids I could, but without the beef jerky, I'd be a mess. Nausea, headache, flushing. It all went away with the extra protein.
posted by Ruki at 9:54 PM on July 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'd definitely look at what/whether you're eating before your lesson in addition to adding some kind of electrolyte-y thing to your water or subbing in Gatorade or whatever. I work out in the mornings during the summer and if I am lazy about breakfast I feel like butt during the workout if I work hard.

I haaaaaaate anything besides plain water but if I am sweating a ton because it is hotter than is comfortable for me I suck it up. They make all kinds of powders you can tip into your bottle; experiment and find the one that's the least gross or get some electrolyte gu/gummies etc.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:55 PM on July 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who complained of migraines triggered by working out. Someone recommended chocolate milk post-workout and a year later she said it made a huge difference.
posted by vunder at 10:38 PM on July 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

On the electrolytes suggestion: drinking too much pure water causes a condition called water poisoning, which in extreme cases can actually be lethal. So, check your symptoms against that.
posted by XMLicious at 10:43 PM on July 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

You have some of the symptoms of hyponatremia. It's caused by too much water combined with too little salt.
posted by Homer42 at 11:27 PM on July 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing the electrolyte recommendation. I too get headaches, as well as dizziness and nausea, if I rehydrate with plain water rather than with electrolytes, especially in summer. I personally recommend Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder as a good fix, as a cheaper and healthier alternative to Gatorade. (See, for instance, here.) It comes as a powder that you mix with water (you can buy the big tub or the sachets that you can carry in your bag), so it's quite convenient. It's also gluten-free, sugar free, sweetened with stevia, and flavored/colored by grape skin extract (which has antioxidants). I like the grape version best. Apparently there's an updated version that's come out but I haven't tried it yet.
posted by ClaireBear at 12:14 AM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you wear a hat with a brim during this outdoor exercise? I am pretty sure you can get those symptoms from too much sun exposure, no matter how much water you drink, so it's partly about shading your head.
posted by lollusc at 1:10 AM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far, this is really helpful! To answer the couple of questions:
I generally only eat a protein bar or a cheese danish before.
If I don't drink coffee, I'll get that headache instead, unrelated to being outside or exercise.
My helmet has a small brim in the the front, and I'm usually also wearing sunglasses, tights, tall boots, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt that lets air through but keeps the sun out.
posted by sepviva at 7:32 AM on July 2, 2017

I get really bad migraines if I only have carbs or sugary stuff for breakfast. I'd absolutely feel terrible all day if I had a danish in the morning. Like others have said, maybe it's not about hydration, but about breakfast. Try eating something with more protein in it. (eggs, avocado, oatmeal with some sort of "superfood" added to it, etc)

And when's the last time you had your glucose/thyroid checked?
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:07 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I knew this was about riding even before I got to your last paragraph! It is *hot*; the horse's body heat rises, and you also get the reflection off of the arena footing.

I struggle with this too and, anecdotally, what has helped me is magnesium supplements and an equivisor or sunglasses. I do these things for migraine prevention, but have noticed that it helps me cope with the heat. From that, I deduce that my feelings of "I am sensitive to heat" really means "I am getting a migraine."

Lastly, my barn keeps a supply of otterpops in the freezer and the frozen slush against the roof of your mouth is incredibly cooling.
posted by Pleased_As_Punch at 10:07 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lots of good information above, and I'm nthing eating some protein in addition to the cheese danish (even if it is just a hard boiled egg), and adding electrolytes (and be careful of water poisoning and hyponatremia).

I just came to add that my friend who rides in a hot climate says that wearing a cooling vest has really made a difference for her.
posted by gudrun at 10:48 AM on July 2, 2017

Best answer: I agree with others above that this is not dehydration, but you are getting a migraine, triggered by a combination of heat and exertion. And rather than thinking of this as heat related, I think it is better to think of it as stress related, lumping together all the stress factors with the added heat creates a tipping point that causes a stress-related migraine.

I started getting these a few months ago when I began a new weight-lifting program and was overdoing it. Once I eased back a little on how much I was doing, the headaches went away and I was able to train a little harder more gradually. I have a friend who was getting terrific migraines after her weekly gym workout, and once she started going more often, they went away.

After years of migraines, my theory is that they are caused by any change your body is not equipped to handle, it could be mental or physical. So mitigating the amount of change (if you can), often eases the number and severity of the migraines. So in your case, I might either try to ride at a cooler time, have more frequent lessons maybe of a shorter duration, or tough out the current regime with prophylactic advil (taken before riding), having snacks right before riding, and whatever else helps you feel better after a migraine has started can help alleviate one beforehand.
posted by nanook at 11:17 AM on July 2, 2017

I had migraines triggered by heat no matter how much water I drank for several years. When I went off hormonal birth control, all of a sudden I could go outside in 100°F weather for more than ten minutes without getting a two-day migraine.
posted by telophase at 1:23 PM on July 2, 2017

I dealt with this when I was biking through the 120F desert in Arizona in the summer. I could drink and drink and drink, and I would be saturated with water and yet still so thirsty. It was perplexing.

Everyone telling you "electrolytes" is probably right.

Where do you find electrolytes? Gatorade. Lemonade. Agua fresca. Horchata. Fruit + a bit of salt (bananas, avocadoes, watermelon, etc., or just add a handful of salty chips).

In my case, I first discovered electrolytes in that hot, hot desert through Gatorade. It was MAGIC. All of a sudden, the water stuck. But people have also been using fruit + salt since the beginning of time.

Give it a try; you'll know pretty instantly whether or not it solves this for you.
posted by aniola at 2:20 PM on July 2, 2017

Are you sweating a lot during your lesson? I haven't ridden since I was a kid but I don't recall it being particularly sweaty or strenuous - although the clothing could still mean you're overheating. Someone has mentioned 87 degrees not being too extreme - they really depends on what you're used to, I'm english, at 87 degrees there's no way I'd even go outside. You would need to be sweating buckets during that hour for it to be an electrolyte issue. If you're not, then its something else.
Are you on the horse for the entire lesson? Is there any chance to take your helmet off for a few minutes ? I play roller derby and when its hot, I take every opportunity to take off my helmet to cool down
posted by missmagenta at 3:03 PM on July 2, 2017

Seconding the electrolytes and the cooling vest. (Get a good quality one, they last forever and they're wonderful!)

Also, do something with your helmet. I made mine into a hellhat, and you can be as creative as you want to be with it. If you are more of an English purist, or if that isn't your thing, get one of the many types of sun brims. It makes all the difference in the world if I'm out for 6 hours on an IMO ride in 97 degree heat to have my head and face shaded! I'm tempted to send for one of these Ergodyne Chill covers with the neck shade. At $7 bucks, it sure beats the cost of DaBrim and the Equivisor! Your choices are orange or lime, but whateves.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:49 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not so great with supplements. Lack of magnesium gives me muscle spasms; I eat dried apricots and walnuts to get more. Eat a banana a couple times a week to boost potassium.
Gatorade has rehydration salts and sugars in it; worth a try.
posted by theora55 at 6:15 PM on July 2, 2017

Electrolyte pills are a thing, and made a huge difference for me in a similar situation. Amazon has them. (I think the brand i can vouch for is Medilyte.)
posted by jessicapierce at 8:05 PM on July 2, 2017

It eventually went away after a nap, an advil, a snack, and walking the dog.

This is me! I struggled with bad headaches/migraines following running in the heat. I tried upping my water intake, until like you I was closer to hyponatremia than dehydration. I made electrolyte solutions, tried caffeine before and/or after exercising. Like you, the headaches seemed to go on forever, usually until I fell asleep.

I had a terrible episode last summer where the headache was so bad that I felt I had to go to the hospital. The pain was so intense that I vomited on the way to and in the ER. I had an MRI, which was normal. I eventually came across a really nice resident who looked through the scientific literature during our appointment. There isn't conclusive evidence about the cause of exercise induced headaches, except that they are more common in the heat, and are somewhat more frequent in sports like swimming and weightlifting, where the patterns of breathing increase intraocular pressure. He suggested taking Excedrin (paracetamol + aspirin + caffeine) before exercising, especially if I knew it would be an especially intense or hot workout.

This has worked for me (although I started doing this last June, so there have only been a few months of intense heat in which I've been able to test it). Sometimes I forget to take the medicine until after the headache is coming on, and the pain is remarkable. So the phenomenon is still occurring, and there's something about medicating before the symptoms start that is important (I understand this is true for migraines as well, which makes sense).

Good luck! I hope you find something that works soon.
posted by MrBobinski at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

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