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Hydration of Athletes for Optimum Performance

Hydration of Athletes for Optimum Performance

Hydration has been a very common topic in sports nutrition. You hear it all of the time – drink lots of water, use sports drink to get your electrolytes, use energy drinks to get the boost you are looking for, etc, etc. How much of this information is accurate?

What Do We Need Water For Anyway?

The human body is composed of 60 – 70% water so having good hydration is essential. Water is used to:

    • break down food and aid in digestion
    • transport nutrients around the body to feed cells and remove waste, both gases and solids
    • aid in circulation (blood)
    • optimum performance of organs like the brain, kidneys, muscles, skin, joints and the eyes
    • metabolism of fats
    • protection in cells
    • regulate body temperature

Effects of Poor Hydration

Dehydration AffectsIf you ignore the signals from your body and don’t drink enough water, what happens?

  • feeling thirsty
  • urine will turn yellow
  • the brain will start to function poorly creating headaches, fatigue and lack of concentration
  •  joints will lack moisture needed for movement and begin to ache
  • muscles will start to cramp
  • removal of waste is more difficult causing constipation
  • hair and nails become brittle
  • calcium can begin to accumulate and cause kidney stones
  • serious dehydration will cause issues with the kidneys, heart and blood pressure

Is Too Much Even Possible?

headacheToo much water causes two conditions:  water intoxication and hyponatremia.  As water levels increase in the body, the cells will be surrounded by more water causing a difference in the level of sodium. The cells want the same concentration of sodium (salt) inside and outside the cell so they will begin to absorb water AND move sodium out of the cell through a process called osmosis. The cells swell and lose sodium at the same time. This swelling has a drastic effect on the brain which has very little room to expand due to the skull. As it swells, it causes behavior changes like alcohol intoxication, seizures, coma and possibly death. To combat the effects, water intake is restricted and the sodium levels are increased by giving the person a concentrated saline solution.

Is over hydration a common occurrence? No. It is most common in marathon runners and infants. A really high intake of water in a short period of time would be needed because the kidneys can remove up to 15 liters per day from the body.  An average person will not drink anywhere near that amount.

How Much Hydration?

You hear a lot of sources stating a given amount of water to drink; 8 glasses of liquid per day for example. The problem with this statement is the other factors not taken into consideration. The size of the person, the activity level during the day, the temperature in their environment, etc. A better gauge is to definitely drink when you are thirsty but also try to drink at least 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight.  This will take body size into consideration.

Hydration from Energy Drinks and Sports Drinks

Energy drinks on the market have NO nutritional value and do very little to help the body train and recovery from exercise. Sports drinks replace electrolytes but are not needed all of the time. For further information on both energy drinks and sports drinks, download the ebooks.

Energy Drinks

Sports Drinks

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