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The Benefits Of Hydration And How You Can Utilise Them!

Updated on February 11, 2013

Importance of Water!

If I was to ask you about the term, 'Sports Nutrition,' I would predict your mind with come up with words such as, 'carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, creatine, etc.' Whatever it is that jumps into your mind, I bet it is not water! Remarkably simple water is of supreme importance to your health and performance.

Poke yourself, go on... I bet you are thinking you appear pretty solid, on the contrary, your body weight is made up of roughly 70% water! So in an 11 stone adult, 8 stone of your total body weight is water! Remarkable. Even though we are made up of such a vast amount of water, even the tiniest drop in this water level can reduce your performance significantly. All serious athletes should know that it is vital to maintain a hydrated body at all times.

When the body is being to become dehydrated hormonal messages are delivered to the brain to stimulate thirst. On the other hand, an excessive amount of water will increase urine production. In this sense the body has some form of mechanism in place which allows for the balance to be correct. However, it takes will power to remember to hydrate yourself.

Another reason why water is so important is that it has the ability to stop our bodies from overheating, our bodies do this by producing sweat, which the majority of is made up by water. This is especially important when exercising. Here is a maths based example of this; it is proven that an average 70 kilogram adult will consume about 0.25 litres of oxygen per minute. This in turn will convert to about 70 watts of heat output for the body. However, when this individual then proceeds to run, let's use a pace of six minutes a mile for example, then his oxygen intake with rise by roughly 15 times, leading to over four litres of oxygen per minute. The heat output from this rises to about 1,100 watts. Wow! Depending on the environment and conditions, this extra heat produced has to go somewhere. This is where sweating comes into play. If you are not correctly hydrated then you may find yourself overheating and feeling very tired.

If building muscle is you aim, then hydration is just as important. Glycogen (stored energy) is how the body fuels itself for high intensity sports. Making sure the body replenishes this glycogen is one thing, but each gram of glycogen fixed onto muscle fibres needs around 3 grams of water. This is why you may feel thirsty when consuming a high carbohydrate meal. Water is needed to form the perfect glycogen balance for the body. So water is needed for muscle recovery, not just to replace that lost when sweating.



An example of a electrolyte rich sports drink, Powerade.
An example of a electrolyte rich sports drink, Powerade. | Source

Let's Gauge The Publics Hydration Levels!

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How To Replace Sweat Lost

Obviously the most obvious answer here is to replace sweat with water, just drink an adequate amount of water and you will be fine. This is right to a certain extent, there are minerals within water which are vital to allow the body to function efficiently. These minerals are called electrolyte minerals and some prime examples are as follow;

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride

These electrolyte minerals are also lost during the sweat process. The amount of each lost will vary from person to person, however it is said that a litre of sweat typically contains these averages;

  • Calcium - 0.02g
  • Magnesium - 0.05g
  • Sodium - 1.15g
  • Potassium - 0.23g
  • Chloride - 1.48g

Although the weight of these sounds minimal, the slightest fluctuation in this can affect the body, especially when sweating for a long amount of time, for example endurance training.

Now water will hydrate and replenish these lost minerals, however in this instance drinking electrolyte mineral containing pre-made drinks may benefit you to a greater extent. An example of one of these drinks would be the popular, Cytomax. These drinks are specially formulated to perfectly balance and restore the lost minerals during sweat.

Signs Of Dehydration

There are many indicators that you may be dehydrated. Dehydration will not just feel like you are thristy, it will affect you in so many other ways. Here are some examples of mild dehydration;

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Concentration Urine
  • Dry Mouth, lips and eyes
  • Not passing enough urine

As previously stated because the body is made up with the majority of it being salty water. This includes the brain. You will find that your skin will become dryer, and your headaches will become progressively worse, the longer you continue to be dehydrated.

However, the situation can become much worse. If the dehydration is an ongoing occurrence, then it can cause the development of kidney stones. As well as this you may also suffer, liver, joint and muscle damage, cholesterol problems and constipation.

Severe Cases Of Dehydration Even Include;

  • Not being able to urinate - If you have not passed urine for eight active hours or more, then you are considered dehydrated.
  • Low Blood Pressure - With water being an element within blood, a deficiency in this will result in lower blood pressure. This in turn goes hand in hand with having a weak pulse.
  • Cold Hands and Feet - Unable to circulate blood efficiently around the body, therefore leaving cold hands and feet.
  • A Low Level of Consciousness
  • Blood in your stool or even vomiting.
  • Extreme tiredness, confusion and lethargic feelings.

As you can see from some of these, it is crucially important to stay hydrated correctly. Hydration is one of the crucial elements which keeps you alive. You can even die from dehydration as the blood cannot circulate the body anymore. People who have been rescued at this point of dehydration have had to remain hospitalized and on drips for months on end until they are back to normal.


Tips On What To Drink While Exercising

Carbohydrate / Electrolyte replenishing drinks will increase hydration, however they will also add a bonus supply of carbohydrates to working muscles, so scientifically, it is clear they should improve performance when dehydration begins to kick in. I found it especially hard to know how much to drink and when, particular when exercising. I did not want to drink to much and then be able to feel the water moving around when I go back to exercise. Problematic... Here are some guidelines which I have devised which are hopefully reasonably generic for most people to adopt;

Pre-Exercise:

  • Your standard diet, throughout the day, should contain an ample amount of water, experts say that 8, 8 ounce glasses of water a day is ideal, howeverif you are planning on exercising hard later that day, I would strongly recommend increasing this by about 20% so that you are fully hydrated to sweat freely.
  • You may have seen these 'super-hydrating' gels and liquids down the supplement isle. These basically hydrate the body efficiently but give the body more glucose (energy) then water. Consider taking one of these previous to a work out, this will help you not feel the thrist so much while working out. However, these are primarily designed for endurance athletes who perform in hot weather conditions.

Mid-Exercise:

  • Anything exercise lasting under 30 minutes, I would say that mid-exercise fluid hydration is not really needed. My main reason for this is because it is simply not possible to loose enough fluid via sweat in that time to effect your performance.
  • Judge the weather and conditions while you are exercising, if it is especially hot, then remember the need to replace the fluid lost is going to be much higher.
  • If you choose to rehydrate with a sports drink, please make sure it contains electrolyte minerals in it. They will be slightly more expensive, but trust me... They are worth it!
  • Do not drink excessively mid-exercise. There is nothing worse than moving with a stomach full of water. Not only is it off putting, but it could potentially develop into a stitch, stunting your exercise even further.
  • Take sips, not glups! The body will absorb water via the stomach in a much more effective manner if it is consumed in small quantities are a time. Therefore, when taking a water break, tae three to four small sips of the drinks. Even if it is a sports drink.

Post-Exercise:

  • Drink mineral water, electrolyte sports drinks are perfect for this. It is the quickest way to replace all those minerals lost in exercise.
  • Remember you have used a lot of energy, therefore think about replacing the fluid for the glycogen. As a guide consumed 300 millilitres for every 100 grams of carbohydrate consumed.

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