Hydration in sports
Being well hydrated is an important consideration for optimal exercise performance. Athletes should strive for optimal hydration before, during and after exercise. Dehydration can after all compromise aerobic exercise performance, particularly in hot weather, and may impair mental/cognitive performance. Hyperhydration however is also something athletes need to carefully avoid, as this will have an impact on performance as well. Balance therefore is key. Before, during and after exercise.
A carefully managed hydration before exercise, allow enough time to optimise hydration status and for excretion of any excess fluid as uring. Hyperhydration with fluids that expand the extra- and intracellular spaces (e.g. water and glycerol solutions) will greatly increase the risk of having to void during competition and provides no clear physiologic or performance advantage. This practice should thus be discouraged.
Athletes dissipate heat produced during physical activity by radiation, conduction, convection and vaporization of water. In hot, dry environments, evaporation accounts for more than 80% of metabolic heat loss. Sweat rates for any given activity will vary according to ambient temperature, humidity, body weight, genetics, heat acclimatization state, and metabolic efficiency. Depending on the sport and condition, sweat rates can range from as little as 0.3 to as much as 2.4l/h [Sawka 2007].
The intent of drinking during exercise is to avert a water deficit in excess of 2% of body weight. The amount and rate of fluid replacement is dependent on the invididual athlete’s sweat rate, exercise duration; and of course the opportunities to drink.
Skeletal muscle cramps are associated with dehydration, electrolyte deficits, and muscle fatigue. Non-heat-acclimatized American football players commonly experience dehydration and muscle cramping particularly during formal preseason practice sessions in late summer. Athletes participating in tennis matches, long-cycling races, late-season triathlons, soccer, and beach volleyball are also susceptible to dehydration and muscle cramping. Muscle cramps also occur in winter-sport athletes such as cross-country skiers and ice hockey players.
Because many athletes do not consume enough fluids during exercise to balance fluid losses, they complete their exercise session dehydrated to some extent. Given adequate time, intake of normal meals and beverages will restore hydration status by replacing fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise. In order to rapidly and completely recover from exercise, it’s important to therefore manage your post-work-out hydration optimally as well.
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