Hydration and Athletic Performance

High school athletes train hard, they play to win, and they sweat through it all.

In the intensity of a practice or game, athletes don’t realize the amount of sweat they lose, and that puts them head to head with a nasty competitor — dehydration. It’s crucial to beat dehydration so that athletes can play at their best, even in the final minutes of the game.

Hydrating To Improve Your Athletic Performance

  • Water is approximately 60% of your body weight.
  • Water and hydration is more important than electrolytes, calories or vitamins.
  • Without water your body will shut down. And with too much water you can do significant damage.
  • Water assists the body in the transportation of nutrients and the cooling system.

By the time thirst sets in, the body has already lost at least two percent of its fluid, and dehydration occurs. At any chance possible before and during exercise consume fluids to avoid the harmful consequences of dehydration.

So, what can you do to stay hydrated during your exercise and recognize the symptoms?

Before any exercise you should always drink between 16-24 oz of fluid. Don’t guzzle it, just sip over a 30 minute or so time frame.
Caffeine drinks will dehydrate you even faster than drinking nothing so stick with water or sports drinks ( remember that sports drinks may be high in calories so keep that in mind).
Drink early.
If the weather is hot or humid you should also drink 16 oz about 45 minutes before you intend to work out.

Keep liquid with you that is easy & quick to drink.  Always have your water bottle close at hand for a quick sip.

You will get distracted and keep working only to decrease your performance and lose valuable time building strength and endurance.

Drinking too much water during exercise (exertional hyponatremia or water intoxication). Although you can drink enough to totally replace your sweat loss, you can drink too much to quickly. When you drink too much water (or other liquid) it can cause hyponatremia along with cardiac issues.

Sodium plays a key role in your body. It helps maintain normal blood pressure, supports the work of your nerves and muscles, and regulates your body’s fluid balance.

When the sodium level in your blood becomes too low, extra water enters your cells and causes them to swell. Swelling in your brain is especially dangerous because the brain is confined by your skull and unable to expand without causing symptoms.

Because you lose sodium through sweat, drinking too much water during endurance activities, such as marathons and triathlons, can dilute the sodium content of your blood.  Always replenish your body’s fluid by sipping, not gulping.

Be aware of the signs of dehydration
They will include feeling dizzy, loss of energy, headaches, anxiety, rapid pulse or hot dry skin.

Body Water Lost Symptoms
1 % Few symptoms or signs of any thirst present; however, there is a marked reduction in VO2 max.
2% Beginning to feel thirsty; loss of endurance capacity and appetite.
3% Dry mouth; performance impaired.
4% Increased effort for exercise, impatience, apathy, vague discomfort, loss of appetite.
5% Difficulty concentrating, increased pulse and breathing, slowing of pace.
6-7% Further impairment of temperature regulation, higher pulse and breathing, flushed skin, sleepiness, tingling, stumbling, headache.
8-9% Dizziness, labored breathing, mental confusion, further weakness.
10% Muscle spasms, loss of balance, swelling of tongue.
11% Heat Exhaustion, delirium, stroke, difficulty swallowing; death can occur.

Carbohydrates are a popular snack food before strenuous exercise. Two specific reasons that they work so well is that they provide quick energy and they keep you hydrated by pulling water into your digestive tract.

Other ways to cool your body down is to decrease the intensity of your exercise for a few minutes to allow the internal heat to dissipate. If you are cycling, coast for a few minutes; if you are running slow to a brisk walk when you drink.

External application of water on your skin using a wet rag or spray bottle will also help to cool your body down.

Dehydration is a significant problem for athletes of all skill levels.  Staying hydrated will improve your athletic performance and decrease your probability of injury. Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration, keep fluids with you and use external applications of water as you can.

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