The Importance of Hydration
What is ‘Hydration’ and Why Does it Matter?
Water works in many ways throughout your body. It is the most abundant molecule – making up approximately 60-70% of total body weight. Water plays a role in nearly every chemical process in the body. Water is an important molecule found in nearly every tissue and cell.
Water and Exercise
It is fairly well understood that water is essential for all healthy adults – but it is especially important for performance-driven athletes. Active athletes need to adequately hydrate to optimally support their performance. This is true for all athletes including runners, swimmers, team sports competitors, and also for extreme sports like boxing, mountain climbing and snowboarding.
Exercise can raise the body’s core internal temperature. Heat is created when the body burns energy to fuel working muscles. This increases body temperature, making you feel hot. In order to prevent excessive heat buildup, the body responds by increasing skin blood flow and producing sweat. The body can be cooled when sweat evaporates from the skin.
Water and Performance
Exercise performance may become impaired by dehydration. Hydration is the body’s status of fluid in the tissues. Dehydration is defined as a water loss greater than 2% of your body weight. Dehydration can impair physical performance because of a reduction in blood volume, decreased sweat rate and increased core temperature.
It is important to replenish water losses after excessive sweat loss to keep your body cool and functioning optimally. Balance is the key. Too much or too little water can have a negative impact. The rate of fluid loss depends on the duration and intensity of activity. There are also individual characteristics such as an individual’s body weight, genetics, acclimation to heat and ability to cool.
Tips to Stay Hydrated:
- Be proactive with your hydration – do not wait until you are physically thirsty.
- Drink water throughout the day and around activity.
- Drink water during activities – especially if long duration and high-intensity.
- Factor in your environment. Weather conditions (humidity, hot, cold) can influence your needs.
- Know your sweat rate. Heavy sweaters may require an increased amount of fluids.
- Electrolytes are important to body water balance, and drinks containing electrolytes can help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat.
- Water is the #1 tool for hydration. Remember that water can also be found in variety of foods including beverages, fruits and vegetables.