Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! We hear it again and again. Even though it's the most basic part of any nutrition program, it is so often overlooked. It has its role during exercise but also before and after workouts. Just how does hydration affect athletic performance, though?
1. Fluid helps regulate body temperature. When core temperatures rise above normal, the body is under greater stress and this interferes with all systems, including performance and recovery.
2. Fluids regulate blood pressure. This helps normalize heart rate and prevent excessive stress and inflammation that can interfere with performance. When dehydrated, heart rate increases and this can influence the perception of how hard the exercise feels, which can affect performance because of the increased strain placed on the body.
3. Fluids help transport nutrients you need to produce energy. How does your body get the protein, carbs, fats, and other supporting nutrients it needs throughout the body? It uses fluid in your blood stream to transport them to your trillions of cells. Water maintains blood volume and, thus, allows proper circulation. In the meantime, it also helps remove metabolic waste that builds up during intense activity.
4. Proper hydration prevents injuries such as heat illness or hyponatremia (a dramatic loss of sodium and imbalance of electrolytes), which can occur when fluids lost during activity aren't replaced. Such injuries and detrimental effects of dehydration can lead to loss of coordination and difficulty making decisions. Hydration helps the brain stay alert and focused.
5. Water is essential for allowing muscle contractions to take place. On the flipside, dehydration can lead to muscle cramps.
6. Proper hydration prevents nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and other gastrointestional issues that occur when one experiences dehydration of more than 2% of their body weight. These symptoms definitely will interrupt performance and recovery.
7. Proper hydration helps prevent muscle soreness after activity. According to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training
Quick Hydration Guide
Your body relies on proper hydration for the most essential functions. There is no way to train your body to settle for less. It cannot handle dehydration. Here is a quick guide for how to hydrate properly before, during, and after exertion.
+ Before: 2-3 hours before, consume 16-20 ounces (about 1-1.5 water bottles). 15-30 minutes before, consume 8 ounces.
+ During: Consume 4 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes
+ After: Consume 16-20 ounces (1-1.5 water bottles) for every pound lost
J Athl Train. 2006 Jan-Mar;41(1):36-45
Nutrition. 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):651-6.