How Important is Hydration for Athletes?
Hydration is essential for athletic performance.
Water is in fact the number one nutrient needed for optimal physical strength, energy and focus.
But the question you should be asking is Why is hydration so important for athletes in particular?
For starters, many athletes find themselves dehydrated to some degree before they even begin exercising.
And during exercise most athletes drink less water than the amount of sweat they lose and they don't adequately replenish their water supply.
How Does Dehydration Affect Athletic Performance?
Hydration is fundamental for blood volume and circulation, temperature regulation, muscle repair, tissue repair and the distribution of nutrients to your body's cells.
Dehydration and Weight Training
Dehydration during weight training can lead to impaired resistance exercise performance, decreased repetitions, increased perceived exertion, and hindered heart rate recovery.
Essentially, dehydration alone will make you fatigue faster, decrease the amount of weight you are able to lift, decrease total rep volume and also increase recovery time needed after a set.
Hydration and Metabolism
Proper hydration is necessary for a healthy metabolism. One study showed that even mild dehydration decreases fatty acid oxidation and increases muscle protein breakdown.
This means that if you are trying to burn fat and build muscle, hydration needs to be a priority.
Hydration and Cognitive Performance
Athletes need to make fast and accurate decisions at a split seconds notice to perform well in sports.
Hydration plays a crucial role in short-term memory, attention span, reaction time and critical thinking skills.
One study even concluded that a 2% drop in hydration can induce memory loss, mental fatigue and loss of concentration usually seen in concussions.
Hydration, Testosterone and Anabolic Hormones
Dehydration creates an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which increases the stress of resistance exercise both impairing muscle growth and recovery.
The increase in cortisol and insulin levels decreases testosterone synthesis and release.
Testosterone is a crucial hormone for both males and females in respective amounts to help build and repair muscle tissue.
Dehydration also creates a drop in human growth hormone, or HGH. HGH is important for muscle growth and strength, decreases the amount of time needed for recovery, and enhances weight loss.
Proper hydration before, during and after exercise is important for performance, recovery and hormonal response to exercise.
How Do Athletes Achieve Proper Hydration?
Proper hydration can be achieved simply with educating yourself on how to hydrate, then adjust according to your training intensity, environment and personal needs.
Athletes should learn to access their hydration needs based on urine color, consistency and frequency.
The color of your urine should be a light yellow, similar to a light beer. Be sure to take into account and supplements or diet changes that can affect your urine color.
To access sweat loss post exercise monitor weight and hydration status using a scale such as an Inbody scale that measures intra and extracellular water and body mass.
Body mass should not change more than 1-2% during one exercise session. If more than that has been lost, then try to hydrate more next workout.
Restoration of water and electrolytes is an important part of the post-exercise recovery process.
“Salty Sweaters” may need drinks with higher amounts of electrolytes to properly hydrate.
To access for a high amount of salt loss workout in a black shirt and look for salt stains on the back, chest and armpits. High salt losses are associated with muscle cramping.
Many people stress a post-workout protein shake to replace muscle glycogen stores and amino acids for protein synthesis, but the meal should also contain adequate fluids and electrolytes.
Simple 3 Step Plan for Proper Athletic Hydration
The most effective way to properly hydrate is to properly plan. As mentioned earlier, most athletes begin exercising already dehydrated, so planning ahead is vital. Here is an easy 3 Step Plan to help you properly hydrate for athletics!
- Pre-hydrate yourself by drinking 16 ounces of water 30 mins before exercise
- Maintain your hydration levels by drinking 8 ounces of water every 15-20 mins during exercise
- Rehydrate post-exercise by consuming an electrolyte-filled beverage, like Trulean's Everyday Fit™ water flavor supplement.
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