Jan 14, 2019

Exercise & hydration

Many people tend to overlook hydration as well as rehydration. A half-empty water bottle sitting in your car or water from questionable sources is an easy way to make you think you’re hydrating, but in the end, you can’t fool your body!

Water is essential to maintain blood volume, regulate body temperature, and allow muscle contractions. During exercise, the body primarily maintains optimal body temperature by sweating. Heat is removed from the body when beads of sweat on the skin evaporate, resulting in a loss of body fluid. Sweat production, and therefore fluid loss, increases with a rise in ambient temperature and humidity and an increase in exercise intensity.

Drinking fluid during exercise is necessary to replace fluids lost in sweat. This action will reduce the risk of heat stress, maintain normal muscle function, and prevent performance decreases due to dehydration. Unfortunately, in most cases, during exercise, the rates of sweat loss are higher than the rate you can drink, so most athletes get into a fluid deficit.

Therefore, fluid guidelines promote drinking more to reduce the deficit and potential performance detriments associated with dehydration. However, it is also essential to acknowledge that it is possible to over-drink during exercise.

So here are our six main benefits of staying quenched while you exercise, with information on the latest optimal hydration results.

1. Dehydration and Performance

As dehydration increases, there is a gradual reduction in physical and mental performance. There is an increased heart rate and body temperature and an increased perception of how hard the exercise feels, especially in the heat. Studies show that fluid loss equal to 2% of body mass can cause a detectable decrease in performance (a 1.4 kg loss in a 70 kg athlete). Dehydration of greater than 2% body weight loss increases the risk of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and other gastrointestinal problems during exercise. Dehydration reduces the rate of fluid absorption from the intestines, making it more difficult to reverse the fluid deficit. You may end up feeling bloated and sick if you delay fluid replacement. It is nearly impossible to ‘train’ or ‘toughen’ your body to handle dehydration.

2. Estimating your fluid losses

Knowing your sweat rate can give you an indication of how much you should be drinking during exercise. Sports dietitians routinely measure an athlete’s sweat rate during training and competition in various environmental conditions to provide them with the information required to design an individual fluid plan. Follow these easy steps to measure your fluid losses.

  • Weigh yourself in minimal clothing as close to the start of exercise as possible. Ideally, it would be best if you emptied your bladder before weighing.

  • Commence exercise session

  • Weigh yourself again at the end of your session in minimal clothing, ensuring you towel off any excess sweat from your body.

  • Your weight change during exercise reflects your total fluid loss, i.e. the difference between your sweat loss and fluid intake.

  • Remember that weight loss during exercise is primarily water loss (not fat loss) and needs to be replaced soon after finishing the training.

  • Other minor losses come from breathing, spitting, vomiting, and other insignificant sources. Sweat losses can be monitored to show you how much fluid to replace during training sessions and competition.

3. How Much Fluid & When?

Drinking fluid during exercise helps to prevent a drop in performance caused by dehydration, and juice after exercise will rehydrate you. The amount of liquid and the timing of drinks depend on the individual and the sport. Here are some tips:

  • Always start exercising well-hydrated, lowering the risk of becoming dehydrated during sport. There is a minimal performance benefit to being over-hydrated, as drinking excessive amounts of fluid before exercise causes increased urination and feeling bloated.

  • Develop a plan for drinking during exercise based on your sweat rates.

  • Immediately after exercise, monitor your weight change to estimate your final fluid deficit. During recovery, you will continue to lose fluids through sweating and urine losses, so plan to replace 125-150% of this fluid deficit over the next 2-6 hours. For example, if you lost 1 kg (1000mL), drink 1250-1500mL to rehydrate fully. To achieve this goal, drink fluids with your recovery snacks and the next meal.

  • Different sports pose different challenges and opportunities for optimal hydration. For team and racquet sports, there are formal breaks between play, with substitutions and time-outs, all offering a chance to drink. Some individual sports require you to drink on the move. Be innovative and practice strategies to benefit from fluid intake with minimal fuss and discomfort. Try special squeeze bottles or hands-free drink pouches if practical.

  • Thirst is not an adequate indicator of hydration status while exercising. There is usually a significant fluid loss before you feel thirsty. When drinking, your thirst will be satisfied well before these losses have been entirely replaced.

4. Carbohydrates and electrolytes

As many drink options are available, you must consider which is best for you. For example, plain water alone is an effective drink for fluid replacement, especially in low-intensity and short-duration sports. However, if carbohydrates and electrolytes are added to water, as in a sports drink, performance can be enhanced, especially in high-intensity and endurance sports. In addition, if a drink tastes good, athletes will consume more of it, which may assist in meeting fluid targets during competition or rehydrating more effectively.

Carbohydrate in fluid provides a muscle energy source as well as enhance flavour. This can be one advantage of a sports drink (as long it is toxic-free) over plain water. Electrolytes such as sodium are lost in sweat and must be replaced during and after prolonged exercise. Sodium in fluid improves fluid intake by stimulating the thirst mechanism, promoting both carbohydrate and water uptake in the intestines, and reducing the volume of urine produced post-exercise. Of course, salt can be consumed in foods eaten simultaneously as post-exercise fluids.

5. Fluid Guidelines Summary

  • The detrimental effects of dehydration on performance may include loss of coordination, impaired ability to monitor Body Composition and decision, increased rate of perceived exertion, and increased risk of heat stress.

  • Aim to match your sweat rate with the fluid intake as closely as possible.

  • Ensure that you drink at a comfortable rate.

  • Practice your competition fluid intake plan in training sessions.

  • Know your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after training sessions and competition.

  • Structured water is an excellent fluid for low-intensity and short-duration sports.

  • Structured water with electro-lights suits high-intensity stop-go’ and endurance sports.

  • Drink alcohol sensibly and assess the detrimental effects on your recovery.

6. Structuring your water can make a big difference

Water in nature has a specific molecular structure that differs from tap or bottled water. Structured water is found in natural springs, creeks, lakes and pristine river systems.

This kind of water is known as structured water, which the body can absorb more effectively and efficiently. However, tap and bottled waters are unstructured due to the unnatural processes this water goes through.

Therefore, when your cells demand hydration, it is important that your cells get structured water and not unstructured water; the difference is quite significant. You can click on the following link to learn more about structured water.

The benefits of structuring your tap water are:

  • Improved hydration levels

  • Rapid uptake into the cells

  • Greater endurance

  • Less fatigue

  • Greater mental clarity

  • More Strength

  • Increased flexibility

  • Less lactic acid build-up

  • Avoid cramping

You also will…

  • Recover much quicker

  • Have fewer injuries

  • More significant muscle growth and strength

In conclusion, stay hydrated and drink the best possible water to serve you the best way!

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