Everyone knows how important it is to stay hydrated, but it’s even more imperative to be aware of your hydration when expending extra energy. Whether you’re working out or competing in professional sports, making sure that you’re consuming enough fluids can help your overall health. When you drink water to prevent excess fluid loss, you can also prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Your physical performance is also affected by your body’s hydration levels, so not only are the health benefits important, but your competitive edge may be affected if you’re dehydrated. What are some of the most prominent benefits of staying hydrated?
More Energy and Better Recovery Time
When you exercise, it creates stress in the body and tiny tears occur in your muscles. The body loses fluids, and energy stores are being used up. When the body is provided with enough rest and fluids to repair and heal itself, recovery can happen. Even though it may seem counterintuitive, rest days are crucial because they help to strengthen and rebuild the muscles. Making sure that you consume a proper amount of fluids on rest days is essential to allow the body the hydration it needs for recovery. On rest days, recovery happens because energy stores are replenished, damaged tissues are repaired, and it allows the body to adapt to the stress that training puts on the body. Muscles will continuously break down if not properly hydrated and rest and recovery are skipped because it doesn’t have a chance to repair and recharge.
Proper Electrolyte Balance
As you exercise, your internal water levels slowly dwindle as sweat is produced to cool down your body. To prevent dehydration and maintain peak performance, it’s important to replace fluids as they are lost. There are special minerals called electrolytes that are found in your body that allow the gut, heart, brain, and muscles to send and receive electrical signals. Everyone’s body needs electrolytes, and they are critical for athletic performance.
The most common electrolytes that are lost are chloride and sodium, and losing these can reduce agility, skill, power, concentration, and strength. The body also loses other electrolytes including magnesium, calcium, and phosphate as sweating occurs. It’s important to make sure the fluids that you replenish your body with contain electrolytes to replenish what’s been lost. There are special electrolyte drinks that you can buy to replenish your electrolyte stores when it’s hot out or you are working out. Drinks that contain caffeine and sugar may actually worsen dehydration, so it’s important to choose wisely when it comes to rehydrating your body.
Better Heart Health For Athletes
When the body is hydrated, the blood volume is at a healthy level and the heart is able to pump blood throughout the body. It doesn’t have to work as hard as it does if the body is dehydrated. When your body is dehydrated, the overall blood volume decreases and therefore causes reduced blood flow to muscles and skin. Oxygen is also transported to the cells by water. The amount of water that your body needs is unique to you, and it varies from person to person depending on many factors. While it was always said that drinking eight glasses of water each day was sufficient, that rule of thumb isn’t exactly accurate.
Climate, clothing, amount of perspiration, and type of exercise you’re doing all factor into how much water your body needs. While water is best to rehydrate the body, vegetables and fruits also contain high percentages of water that help to keep the body hydrated. They also contain vitamins and minerals that plain tap water is often lacking. Consuming beverages like electrolyte drinks can help keep your body hydrated and balanced. Not only does staying hydrated help improve your cardiovascular health, it can also positively improve your memory and brain health.
Improved Memory and Brain Focus
Water makes up about 75% of brain mass. When the body isn’t hydrated, the brain doesn’t function at full capacity, and there may be an impairment with focus and memory. A mild loss of water can occur simply due to routine daily activities in adults who consume only one liter of water daily. Even just 2% dehydration can affect brain function. If you’re not as hydrated as you should be, you may also experience:
- Poor attention and focus
- Memory loss
- Slower processing of information
- Impaired concentration
- Increased reaction times
- Short-term memory issues
- Mood changes
A study done on the effects of dehydration and brain performance found that people who drank water before performing a cognitive test had a 14% increased reaction time when compared to those who didn’t hydrate. The people who were dehydrated also reported being more tense and confused in addition to the decrease in cognitive performance. Water is a requirement of metabolic and structural support for tissues and cells as well as transporting essential nutrients and compounds. These compounds and nutrients are essential for proper neuronal function.
Headaches can occur due to dehydration when your body doesn’t get enough of the fluids it requires. Other symptoms of dehydration like extreme thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue will occur in addition to the headache pain. Even a mild amount of dehydration can cause a headache. To know if your headache is related to dehydration, you can drink more water to hydrate your body, take over the counter pain relievers, and rest. If the headache is related to dehydration, it will often get better with these steps. Almost everyone will experience a headache from time to time, and headaches are the most common type of pain.
The majority of the people in the United States don’t consume enough fluids, either from their food or drinking water. The lack of fluid then leads to dehydration, which can cause a headache. Those that are at a higher risk of dehydration include babies, young children, and the elderly. People that have certain health conditions are also at an increased risk for dehydration. A headache that is caused by dehydration can have pain that ranges from mild to severe, and the pain can be felt all over the head or isolated to one spot. It’s often a dull ache, but sometimes there can be more sharp pains.
A dehydration headache may be experienced as pounding or throbbing, or constant pain. When you bend over, move around, or shake your head, the pain may increase. When you experience headaches regularly, you may actually be suffering from dehydration headaches. Some other common symptoms of dehydration headaches include:
- Darker urine and less urination
- Heat cramps
- Appetite loss
- Fainting or passing out
The good news is that preventing dehydration headaches is pretty simple if you stay properly hydrated. Making sure that babies, children, and the elderly stay hydrated is very important. It’s also critical to realize there are instances where it’s really hot out, or you’re losing a lot of fluids from exercise where you need to rehydrate to prevent health issues.
Stay Hydrated Before, During, and After Exercising
When you work out, it’s important to stop exercising in a hydrated state to minimize any potential effects of losing fluid while exercising. Each individual needs to assess for any potential signs of dehydration before they begin exercise. There is a method called the WUT method that you can use to determine your body’s hydration levels. W stands for weight, and if you lose more than 1% of your body mass it can be a sign of dehydration. U stands for urine color, and darker and more concentrated urine points towards dehydration, while lighter urine generally indicates hydration. T stands for thirst, and while a lack of thirst doesn’t equal adequate hydration, when your body craves water it can indicate you aren’t hydrated.
While exercising, it’s a good idea to consume fluids over the course of the workout to replace what is sweated out. After exercise, the two most important factors that influence how effective the post-exercise hydration strategy are the type of liquid and volume consumed. While it may seem like common sense to take in the same amount of fluid that was lost during exercise, this amount is not sufficient as it doesn’t take into account the amount of fluid that is lost with urine output in the hours after exercise. A general recommendation is to consume 150% of the fluid lost during physical activity.
Stay Hydrated to Stay Healthy
Being properly hydrated has so many effects on other areas of the body that it’s critical to make sure that your whole family is taking in enough fluids. Preventing dehydration is very helpful to your overall health especially when you work out often. Staying hydrated is a simple way to help improve your quality of life and health. Drink up!