Effects of dehydration on athletic performance
Athletes, weekend warriors, pro athletes. Although they are all at different stages in their sporting careers, they all have one thing in common to perform at their best. You need adequate hydration. Proper hydration is something you should always pay attention to in everyday life, but even more so when you exercise. It's important to recognize the signs of dehydration, the many benefits of hydration, and how to drink properly to stay in shape. Let's dive in!
signs of dehydration
Dehydration is when the body's total water content decreases due to fluid loss, decreased fluid intake, or both. By sweating during exercise, your body maintains its temperature. When water loss through sweat exceeds fluid intake, dehydration takes over, affecting both sweating and heat dissipation from working muscles.3 Sometimes the symptoms of dehydration are so minor that athletes struggle with the consequences , without knowing it. Common signs of dehydration include dry mouth and tongue, thirst, headaches, lethargy, dry skin, muscle weakness, dark urine, and/or dizziness.2 Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Early detection and treatment of dehydration is key to staying in the game.
Importance of hydration for athletic performance
Did you know that not drinking enough water can reduce your stamina by almost half? For example, if your endurance time is 121 minutes, dehydration can reduce your endurance time to 55 minutes.1 There are a number of effects that occur when your body is dehydrated that directly impact athletic performance. The effects of dehydration include a reduction in blood volume, decreased skin blood flow, decreased sweat production, increased core temperature, and increased consumption of muscle glycogen. All of these factors negatively impact your ability to perform at your best.
Dehydration can affect not only your physical performance, but also your mental performance. Your cognitive performance is just as important as your physical performance. Dehydration can lead to slower reaction times, increased fatigue and poor concentration. The climate also plays a role in hydration. The great heat in Arizona is one more reason to make sure you drink enough water all year round.
For elite athletes, limiting fluid loss to no more than 2% of body weight helps maintain the physiological, cognitive and safety aspects of training while aiding recovery and future training sessions.3 Proper hydration is essential to recovery and getting you ready for the next game or training session.
How to hydrate
Fortunately, there are ways to ensure proper hydration before, during, and after exercise. Yes, all three times are equally important. A quick way to calculate how much water you need per day is to take half your body weight in pounds and convert it to ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you need 80 ounces of water. A regular bottle of water holds about 16 ounces, so you'll need at least 5 bottles a day to stay hydrated. Follow these tips to develop a drinking strategy tailored to your individual needs, so you stay one step ahead of the competition.
Before the activity
The goal is to be well hydrated before engaging in physical activity. Don't wait until your body tells you you're thirsty to hydrate. Anticipate your thirst and take a sip of water to get a head start. Plan your activities a day in advance and stay hydrated the night before to put yourself in the best possible position for success.
during the activity
To stay hydrated during your activity, make sure you're drinking enough fluids to replace water lost through sweat while avoiding excess fluid loss and intake.3 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young athletes, during activity Drink 1 - 1.5 liters or 34 - 50 ounces of water per hour. 50 ounces of water is equivalent to just over 3 disposable water bottles. Electrolytes need to be replenished for activities longer than 90 minutes. A sports drink along with water is helpful and will also help keep you hydrated.
After the activity
The goal of post-activity hydration is to replace the fluid deficit that you lost during your activity. Hydrating after a workout or game restores fluid balance, improves recovery, reduces symptoms of underhydration, and decreases post-exercise fatigue. 3 If you want to know how much to drink after exercising, keep an eye on your body weight to see how much sweat you've lost. If you've lost plus or minus 1.5% of your body weight, you're fine and adequately hydrated. If the number is greater than 1.5%, you are prone to dehydration and should start hydrating as soon as possible.
Hydration is something that can often be neglected. Adequate fluid intake is extremely important for the daily functions of our body. It is important for every athlete to monitor their hydration and take responsibility for their rehydration strategy. You can train harder, practice longer, and perform better when you stay hydrated.
Jeukendrup, Asker, and Michael Gleeson. "Dehydration and its Effects on Performance", Humankinetics. Np, nd Web. July 17, 2020, https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/dehydration-and-its-effects-on-performance.
Shaheen, Naila A., et al. "Public Knowledge of Dehydration and Fluid Intake Practices: Variation by Participants' Characteristics". BMC Public Health, BioMed Central, 5 Dec. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6282244/.
McDermott, Brendon P., et al. "National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Fluid Replacement for the Physically Active". Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association, Sept 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5634236/.