The Importance Of Hydration During Exercise

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,136
    Registered Dietitian Roxanne Moore of Sodexo discuses the basics of sports nutrition, including the importance of hydration during exercise.

    Roxanne E Moore: Hi! I am Roxanne Moore, Registered Dietitian and Director of Wellness for Sodexo Schools. Water is by far the most essential nutrient to the body and it is the main source of hydration during exercise.

    There are four goals of hydration during sports. One, it's to keep our bodies cool, especially in hot environments. The other important reason is to delay fatigue and maintain mental sharpness.

    Hydration also helps to satisfy your thirst and prevents significant weight loss from sweating. And finally, it helps to improve your ability to recover quickly from training and competition.

    As a person exercises heat generated by working muscles raises the temperature of the entire body. When the body gets hot, it sweats. As the sweat evaporates, the body cools. If this sweat is not replaced by drinking fluids, the body's water balance will be upset and the body may soon overheat.

    Initial symptoms of dehydration include thirst, chills, muscle pain, throbbing heart and clammy skin. As dehydration gets worse, the symptoms become more severe and are associated with heat exhaustion such as dizziness, headache, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. If these symptoms are ignored, they can lead to a life-threatening condition known as a heatstroke.

    At the point where the athlete becomes overheated, which can be with a fluid loss as small as one to two pounds or about two to four cups of fluid, the ability to mentally focus becomes very tough and the muscles lose the ability to function as well.

    This all leads to a loss of performance. Everyday you lose roughly two and a half liters or about 10 cups of water just through normal body processes. So for an athlete this doesn't even include the loss of water that occurs from sweating.

    When it comes to a child athlete, being aware of water loss is even more critical. Compared with adults or teenagers, preadolescent kids need to be especially careful about drinking enough fluids for a couple of reason.

    The first is that children do not tolerate temperature extremes well and need more time to adapt. Secondly, children get hotter during exercise because they tend to sweat less and they don't cool off as well as adults. And finally, children have a lower cardiac output, which means they pump less blood through their ventricles over a period of time compared to adults.

    All of these factors increase the risk of dehydration in children. Some sports require close monitoring of the athletes hydration status. These sports include football and hockey players who wear protective gear. The protective gear reduces the ability of the body to cool itself.

    Swimmers also have to be careful because they often do not realize that they're losing body water through sweat. They also become dehydrated from sitting around in hot humid environments. Also, athletes and sports with weight requirements such as wrestling need to be especially careful.

    So to summarize, athletes can lose fluids quickly especially if they are a child athlete or if they are wearing extra layers of equipment or swim excessively throughout the day.

    Two key tips to get started with good hydration include, tip one, for every one pound lost during exercise you need to replenish your body with at least two cops of fluid. The athletes should weigh themselves before and after activity to get a general idea of how much fluid is being lost during exercise.

    Tip two; never should athletes deprive themselves of water to lose weight. This is only going to harm performing and potentially increase their risk of serious injury.

    So imagine a plump juicy grape turning into a shriveled raisin. The raisin is a dehydrated grape. For the athlete this change in fluid status harms performance significantly again.

    So don't risk losing your game, because you failed to hydrate.