Water is the most essential ingredient to a healthy life. Water has many important functions in the body including:
- Transportation of nutrients / elimination of waste products.
- Lubricating joints and tissues.
- Temperature regulation through sweating.
- Facilitating digestion.
Importance of Water During Exercise - Proper hydration is especially important during exercise. Adequate fluid intake for athletes is essential to comfort, performance and safety. The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kind of fluids.
Dehydration - Athletes need to stay hydrated for optimal performance. Studies have found that a loss of two or more percent of one's body weight due to sweating is linked to a drop in blood volume. When this occurs, the heart works harder to move blood through the bloodstream. This can also cause muscle cramps, dizziness and fatigue and even heat illness including Heat Strokeand Heat Exhaustion.
Causes of Dehydration
- Inadequate fluid intake
- Excessive sweating
- Failure to replace fluid losses during and after exercise
- Exercising in dry, hot weather
- Drinking only when thirsty
Hyponatremia - Water Intoxication - Although rare, recreational exercisers are also at risk of drinking too much water and suffering from hyponatremia or water intoxication. Clearly, drinking the right amount of the right fluids is critical for performance and safety while exercising.
Adequate Fluid Intake for for Athletes - Because there is wide variability in sweat rates, losses and hydration levels of individuals, it is nearly impossible to provide specific recommendations or guidelines about the type or amount of fluids athletes should consume.
Finding the right amount of fluid to drink depends upon a variety of individual factors including the length and intensity of exercise and other individual differences. There are, however, two simple methods of estimating adequate hydration:
- Monitoring urine volume output and color. A large amount of light colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated.
- Weighing yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost is likely from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses. Any weight gain could mean you are drinking more than you need.