As a staple of life, the importance of good fluid intake and hydration can easily be overlooked. After all, we all know we need to drink plenty of water, and we often feel like we’re probably managing to do it – or we know that we’re not – but we still manage to power through our days nonetheless.
When it comes to the way we perform during physical activity, however, our hydration influences a lot more than just whether we feel a little thirsty or not. And we’re not talking about electrolyte or sports performance drinks either – just the value of good old water consumption.
Losing 5% of more of our body weight in water, whether that’s due to insufficient water intake throughout the day or from losing sweat during exercise without replacement, has been shown in studies to reduce our capacity for sports performance by a whopping 30%.
Before you start thinking that that that’s quite a large amount of water and you’re safe, even losing as little as 1-2% of our body weight in water also causes a significant decrease in our physical performance and endurance while increasing the risk of nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and gastrointestinal problems – a massive setback in any sport or training.
While you may think that yep – not being able to run as fast makes sense when you’re dehydrated, it’s not just endurance exercise that is affected. Studies suggest that hypohydration also limits a person’s strength, power and high-intensity endurance too. This can greatly affect your performance in all activities and sports, for kids and adults alike.
The reason for all this impact is multi-faceted, but we must consider that hypohydration provokes changes in our cardiovascular, thermoregulatory, metabolic, and central nervous function that become increasingly greater as dehydration worsens. This means that our mental performance, like when we’re at work, can also become quickly impaired.
Yep – good hydration really is a critical key to our function!
When we have enough water in our system, our blood pumps more easily and efficiently through the vessels. This means our heart and systems don’t have to work so hard to get that blood, which carries vital glucose, oxygen and nutrients that our cells need to perform our everyday functions.
Hydration helps all our other systems too – from helping our kidneys get rid of waste products, to keeping our digestive system moving well – to even lubricating our joints and eyes while keeping our skin healthy.
It’s no surprise really, when we consider what a large part of our body water comprises. From our brain, which is 95% water, to our muscles (76%) and lungs (90%), if we want our bodies to function effectively and power us well through physical activity, we can’t leave them dehydrated.
A study examining child athletes found that two-thirds of them were dehydrated before their training started, let alone throughout the game. Those participating in regular sports have been shown to be able to lose over 1.5 litres of body water before feeling thirsty.
While the amount of water you’re drinking and replenishing is a good indicator, you can look for the following signs. Though remember that by the time you’re feeling particularly thirsty, you’re likely already dehydrated.
The best thing you can do to start is to keep up your water intake long before you start exercising, and know how much you should be drinking through your sports to keep you at your peak performance.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior, part of a social sports team, or are training for your next marathon or professional sports team, we’re here to help. We work extensively with athletes to help them optimise their performance, rehabilitate injuries, prevent future injuries, and help them achieve their goals.