The importance of hydration in fitness

What do you consider to be the most important component of your training regime? Is it keeping to the training manual? Perhaps putting in an extra session? Or, maybe it’s maintaining a proper nutrition program.  Did you know that by losing only 2% percent of fluid decreases your overall body performance by 25%? An astonishing finding was published by Dr Amanda Carlson, a nutritionist and director of Athletes Performance and Core Performance. She uncovered that 98% of college football players were dehydrated before their morning evaluation. How do you think that affected their performance?

The effects of dehydration on your body

Fluids in our bodies have three functions;
to transport nutrients
to regulate blood pressure
to cool you down

Proper hydration helps you stay at the peak of your performance. During a workout session, you can lose water and electrolytes through perspiration. Your body becomes dehydrated, and consequently, your heart rate increases. Blood flow to the skin decreases and your body temperature rises to dangerous levels because the body cannot cool itself effectively by sweating. By now your overall performance falls by 5%-10% and your concentration dips. Since you have also lost electrolytes, your body’s PH balance is disturbed. This internal uproar requires the body to compensate by borrowing minerals from your vital organs and bones to eradicate acidity in your body. Acidity impairs your overall metabolism, and you end up losing energy, becoming fatigued and feeling drowsy.

Hydrating effectively

No matter how fit we think we are, most of us live in perpetual dehydration. If you are actively exercising, your overall performance is reduced by up to 25% in addition to feeling tired, dizzy, and crampy when you are dehydrated. This is with just a 1% loss of our body fluids. A constant equilibrium must be maintained, and the health benefits you will accrue are immense. The table below illustrates a better hydration regime that has been specifically recommended for fitness.

 

2-3 hours before exercising, drink 500-600ml of water

20-30 minutes before exercising, drink 200-250ml of water

10-20 minute intervals during exercising, drink 200-300 ml of water

30-40 minutes after exercising, drink 250ml of water

The importance of hydration in fitness

Hydration Choices Whilst Exercising

1. Water
The general rule of thumb is to take at least 8 glasses a day under normal activity. When exercising, we want to ramp up the hydration. Although there are no guidelines for water intake during training, it is highly dependent upon the individual, due to each person having a unique body composition and weight.  While the key organ that detoxifies our blood is the liver, the primary agent is water. It dilutes toxins and flushes them away as urine. Additionally, the body cools through sweating. As you perspire, the heat from your body is absorbed by sweat as it evaporates. Equally, water is beneficial in carrying oxygen to your muscles and ensures to train more efficiently and for a longer period. It’s important to note, excessive consumption can be counterproductive. You may develop hyponatremia, which simply means low sodium levels in the blood due to dilution. Sodium is an essential electrolyte which helps maintain a stable balance of water in and around your body cells, while keeping your blood pressure levels in check. 

2.    Water with electrolytes
This means water infused with minerals and these minerals in this context are called electrolytes.  The primary electrolytes are sodium, calcium, phosphate, magnesium, and potassium. They’re muscular and nerve stimulants responsible for transporting electrical charges throughout your body. Your blood volume and pressure are also kept in check by electrolytes. Since exercising often involves excessive sweating, your body loses these electrolytes. It’s therefore important to hydrate with water containing electrolytes. Whilst exercising, just take a few sips at a time to replenish the electrolytes that have been lost. 

3.    Recovery Drinks & Sports Drinks
These drinks can take many forms but with the sole purpose of maximizing your muscle recovery post exercising.  Variety is important, and they may include smoothies or sports drinks. It's worthy to note, after a workout, your muscles lose glycogen and muscle waste. Muscle waste is important because older muscles are discarded giving room for new and stronger muscles to develop. Recovery and sports drinks help in jump-starting this muscle development. They are formulated to replenish carbohydrates and protein lost as you exercise. These carbohydrates and proteins take a simple form like glucose that can easily be absorbed in the body and you will feel instantly recharged.  Additionally, they contain traces of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and mineral selenium which act as antioxidants and eliminate free radical elements like lead that damage body cells, leading to poor performance as you try to keep fit. 

A beneficial training regime can only be successful if all the general rules regarding hydration are followed. All drinks are important, but water is the most critical because it forms the basis of all other hydrating drinks. Although water doesn’t hold any calories, it’s classified as a nutrient making up to 60-70% of our body’s composition. Whereas sports drinks containing electrolytes will help regulate muscle and nerve functions, the bottom line is pure drinking water is important for optimal performance as you keep fit.

Sidrah is a writer and marketing coordinator at Waterlogic, an international provider of office water dispensers, and has contributed to many blogs on environmental and health issues such as improper waste disposal, the use of single use plastics, water pollution and is passionate about health research, medical discoveries and environmental news. 

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