Hydration And Sports Performance


Have you ever noticed that when you undergo a training session on a hot day you start to fatigue quicker?  If you have ever been in a warm environment, then the answer is definitely yes.  With the first day of summer just passing by, a post about hydration is long overdue.  Any sport, fitness regime or competitive event that causes you to sweat involves hydration in some way shape or form. 


What Do You Mean By Hydration?

Hydration refers to your fluid balance.  Water intake more specifically.  Throughout the day we actively drink water, or water containing beverages.  After we drink these beverages, the body keeps the appropriate amount of water it needs and eliminates the rest in order to maintain balance.  The balanced state of hydration is called Eu-hydrated.  When we fall below balance we become Dehydrated.   

As time goes on, assuming we don’t take in more water, the body will still excrete water from our bodies.  Why is that?  Because urination and sweating are what help us to remove waste products from our body.  If we didn’t rid ourselves of these toxins, we could die.  This is why urine has color to it.  The darker the color, the more toxins in the urine.  Sweat can also become discolored if the body is present with high amounts of toxins. 

The color of our urine also tells us how hydrated we currently are.  If our urine is clear, then we are over-hydrated.  If it is bright yellow, the we are Eu-hydrated.  If it is dark yellow, then we are Dehydrated. 


How Hydration Affects Performance

When properly hydrated, all systems are a go.  Everything is functioning properly and the only thing you have to worry about is the game itself.  As you become less and less hydrated, the body will start to drift into dysfunction. 

When you exercise, the body generates a lot of heat.  The most common way that the body eliminates that heat is through sweating.  If the body didn’t sweat and our core temperature continued to rise as training continued, then you would get heat stroke.  Heat stroke can be fatal. 

Sweating is the bodies way of cooling itself off.  When we sweat, water from inside our bodies accumulate on our skin and the water evaporates.  It is during the evaporation that the actual heat is getting removed from our bodies.  If we continue to exercise, we will continue to sweat.  It is our responsibility as athletes to stay hydrated. 


How The Heat Affects Hydration

We know that sweating is the main mechanism for cooling the body’s core temperature.  So what happens when we exercise in conditions with excessive heat?  Our body has to sweat more in order to try to cool us off.  In conditions of extreme heat, this is what can lead to heat illness. 

The body produces heat as a result of mechanical work, i.e. exercising.  In order for our bodies to perform mechanical work, we have to break down energy molecules (ATP).  Amazingly 80% of the energy that we break down is actually lost as heat.  Only 20% is used for actual work.  Our bodies have the same economy as our vehicles. 

If we couple the heat we produce from breaking down ATP with the heat from the external environment, we can get a pretty hot core temperature.  We all have probably decided to man up and workout outside on those hot days when the pavement is actually sizzling.  It’s 95 degrees and humid and the sun is just cooking you as you workout.  Workouts typically don’t last very long in these kinds of environments.  The heat alone is brutal enough, but the humidity makes it even worse. 


How Humidity Affects Hydration

Going back to that same 95 degree day, the humidity creates a whole new set of problems.  Earlier we mentioned that your sweat has to evaporate in order for you to cool off.  What if the air around you was already saturated with water vapor?  Would your sweat still evaporate?

Moist humid air makes it very difficult for your sweat to evaporate.  When it doesn’t evaporate your body has sweat more in an attempt to cool you off.  Obviously this is going to lead to rapid fluid loss.  Not only will you lose your fluids, but also your electrolytes.  This is why dehydration is common in hot AND humid environments. 

Heat illness is also very common in these environments.  Since your sweat isn’t evaporating and the core temperature continues to rise, you risk heat stroke with every minute of exercise that goes by.  Dehydration also increases core temperature as well.


How to Properly Hydrate


Drink Before Thirsty

The simplest habit to get into is just to drink more water periodically throughout the day.  This will help to maintain hydration without the mental cost of worry.  I myself carry around a water bottle with me everywhere I go. 


Use Electrolytes

Electrolytes are the best “trick” to maintaining hydration.  Sports drinks like Gatorade are full of hydrating electrolytes to keep the training sessions going.  Electrolytes are minerals that are added to water in order to help the body to absorb more fluids.  Sometimes drinking a lot of water isn’t enough.  We just pee away the water without giving our bodies a chance to absorb it.   This is especially true in the morning when we first wake up.  Most people drink water or coffee and think that they are all set for the rest of the morning.  This is absolutely not the case.  The body needs water after a nights sleep to rehydrate and reanimate dehydrated muscles and joints. 

Every morning I would recommend taking some kind of electrolyte supplement with water to get the most bang for your buck.  Some of my favorites are:


Take In Carbohydrates With Water

Research has shown that taking in some sort of fast absorbing carbohydrate with water will lead to quicker hydration and ultimately better hydration.  This is why sports drinks such as gatorade are such a huge success on the field.  To make this cocktail even more potent add electrolytes to it as well.  You can thank me later.    


Add A Pinch Of Salt

If supplements have no appeal to you, or you can’t afford them, don’t worry there is still hope.  Just open up the cabinet, grab a salt shaker and add a pinch or salt to your water.  Don’t add too much salt, you don’t want to drink ocean water.  Just a small amount.  This will aide your body in absorbing water without flushing it out too quickly.                  

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