Dehydration and its Impact on Athletic Performance

Posted by Megan Fischer-Colbrie on Oct 23, 2013 10:37:00 AM

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benefits of hydration


Staying hydrated is an age-old phrase, but many of us choose to ignore the whole “drink 8 ounces of water 8 times a day” thing. Are we chronically dehydrated? The answer is a resounding yes, and it comes about in a variety of ways. It’s time to start thinking about why you may forget to stay hydrated, and what hydration specifically means for your body so you can be motivated to do it more than just for the sake of health in general. Since I find sweeping health tips to be the first to drop from my repertoire because I don’t feel direct results, let’s make drinking water directly beneficial to you.


Athletes Need Water to Perform


Yes, I said water: it’s time to get away from flavored this and infused that...water is your key liquid to hydration. So before we move on to electrolytes and sports drinks let’s start simple. Most athletes know to drink water, but besides staying hydrated during practice, post-workout hydration is an important part of recovery. Water flushes out toxins and helps flush out excess acid from muscles in the body post-exertion. It also aids in cellular repair, so those micro tears created in muscle during exercise will heal faster, and leave you with less soreness the next day. If you’re into statistics, an athlete dehydrated with 2.5% loss of body weight in the form of water can experience up to 45% loss in capacity to perform high-intensity exercise. For a 150 lb athlete, this means a loss of 60 ounces of water! It may sound difficult to lose this much, but under
normal conditions an athlete produces about 27-48 ounces of sweat per hour of average exercise, and that’s not including hot, dry conditions or high intensity exercise that many elite athletes undergo. So, chances are, if you work out longer than an hour, you are highly likely to be dehydrated to the point of reduced performance in the second half of your workout or competition…unless you actively


The Impact of Dehydration


Hydrating means sustained work capacity; in other words, you’ll be able to work harder if you drink more water. We tend to think our hydration depends on our activity level, and to some extent, this is true. However, our less active days still demand some attention. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that simply sitting at a desk can lead to dehydration and negative consequences even without visible sweating or exercise.

His study indicates that once dehydration sets in, it affects your cognition, concentration, and ability to control your mood. Results found that mild dehydration (defined as a 1.5% loss in water) led to fatigue, difficulty in memory tasks, anxiety and tension.
So what does this mean for you? It means that when you’re thirsty, your body is already 1-2% dehydrated, so you better go grab a tall glass of water. It means that on average, the daily recommended 6 to 8 glasses of water or 1.2 to 2 liters per day really can save you time and energy while preventing muscle soreness when you consider the awesome benefits to your brain and body that come with hydration.


Water lubricates your joints and eyes, helps maintain chemical balance in the brain, and flushes out toxins to keep you feeling fresh and your skin looking beautiful.

With all this in mind, it can still be difficult to add in another health habit to your daily routine. If hydration seems out of sight, out of mind, make it visible! I always carry a water bottle with me wherever I go. Have it with you at work to refill, in the classroom during lecture, and at home or in your car. When you feel fatigue setting in, try grabbing your water instead of a coffee or tea. You’ll find yourself drinking more water subconsciously, and not reaching those dehydrated energy lows. Hydration is a fast and simple way to help you increase athletic performance—so take advantage of its benefits whenever you can.


Check out another Bridge blog post on sleep's impact on athletic performance.



2. Sawka, Young, Cardarette, et al. 1985



Topics: Nutrition