Proper hydration (water and fluid intake) is crucial to all of our bodily functions. It aids in digestion, waste and toxin removal, nutrient transportation and body temperature regulation. Proper hydration is also crucial to peak athletic performance.
How Hydration Aids Athletic Performance
During exercise, body temperature rises and muscles require more blood, and the main functions of hydration for athletes are to regulate body temperature and maintain blood volume. Water is a crucial component in blood, and your muscles require more blood when working out. In a properly hydrated athlete, blood volume remains constant, so there is enough blood for the muscles and the rest of the body and it is easily transported to the muscles. If fluid levels are too low, your blood will thicken, so it will not get to the muscles as easily.
Blood also helps absorb body heat and transports it to your skin, which is why you sweat. The evaporating sweat helps cool your body, too. If you are not properly hydrated, the aforementioned depleted blood volume will not transfer heat to your skin, so you will not sweat and can overheat.
Athletes who compete or work out for more than an hour at a time (marathoners, Ironmen, cyclists, etc.) need to replace nutrients while exercising, and proper hydration assists in nutrient absorption, too.
How Dehydration Affects Athletic Performance
Dehydration is a loss of water and fluids in the body, and it can have severe affects on your athletic performance and overall health. Inadequate fluid intake and improper fluid replacement mid- and post-workout are the biggest causes of dehydration among athletes; athletes simply don’t drink enough fluids. Exercising in hot, dry weather and excessive sweating are other causes.
Mild cases of dehydration are almost inevitable for athletes. You can never be perfect about replacing fluids, but your situation becomes more perilous as you become more dehydrated.
Listed below, in increasing level of severity, are ways dehydration negatively affects athletic performance:
- Reduction of VO2 Max.
- Feeling thirsty, loss of appetite and diminished endurance.
- Cotton mouth and impaired performance.
- Increased exercise effort, apathy, discomfort.
- Difficulty concentrating, increased pulse and breathing rate.
- Sleepiness, tingling, headache, stumbling.
- Labored breathing, confusion, weakness, labored breathing.
- Swelling of the tongue, muscle spasms, loss of balance.
- Delirium, heat exhaustion, heat stroke or death.
The most severe cases of dehydration can lead to death because improper blood flow and excessive heat can cause your organs to shut down.
How to Properly Hydrate
Hydration is a never-ending battle for athletes. It’s easy to say “Just drink more water,” but knowing when and how much to drink before, during and after exercise takes practice. In an upcoming post, we will discuss how to properly hydrate so you get the most out of your exercise or competition.
>> Read our 10 Tips for Proper Hydration