The summer months are approaching which means a ton of hard work will be happening outside in practices and games. As the temperature steadily increases throughout these spring and summer months, athletes need to hydrate their bodies and understand the importance of fluid intake.
As a Strength Coach, it is my responsibility to help educate athletes on specific heat related illnesses and how to prevent them. It is the athlete’s responsibility to stay hydrated and keep their body replenished during these hot summer days for optimal performance.
The Role of Water
As seen above in the picture, water is vital to our survival and takes on many roles. It functions as a transport system for elements, hormones, chemical messengers and nutrients in our body.
Water is also used in chemical reactions such as Hydrolysis (breaking of bond using water). It’s used to maintain cell structure and also lowers viscosity enabling proteins and enzymes to function more efficiently.
Almost all the bio-chemical reactions that occur in the human body require water and electrolyte balance. Some of the major
electrolytes such as Sodium, Potassium, Calcium Chloride, Phosphorus and Magnesiumare all important for replenishing the body. The need for carbohydrates as well as electrolyte replenishment during exercise depends on the intensity, duration, weather, and individual sweat rates.
Let’s Get Into The Facts
- 70-75% of your body is water. Without it you would be poisoned to death by your own waste products
- 95% of the time, when you are foggy or unclear it is due to lack of water
- Dehydration is the number one trigger for daytime fatigue, nausea, headaches, constipation
- Thousands of Americans risk kidney damage, impaired liver function and urinary tract infection by not drinking enough water
- Just a 5% drop in body water will cause a significant loss of energy
Normal Water Loss
On a normal inactive day, you would lose about 1.5 Liters of water (3 bottles of water) through kidney filtration (urine production). You would also lose .750 Liters of water (1 1/2 bottles of water) through perspiration and respiration. With this being said, an average person needs about 4 1/2 bottles of water just to replace normal water loss.
Depending on how active you are or what your activity level is for that day, the fluid requirements may increase. Don’t forget to add in a sports drink that has some type of electrolyte and carbohydrate replenishment.
If you drink tons of water with no electrolytes and no carbohydrates, your body will flush out those electrolytes with excessive water leading to an electrolyte imbalance and without carbohydrates, your body will be forced to utilize the body’s energy stores for energy. This can cause fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, headaches and confusion.
Dehydration can be acute from intense exercise, or chronic, resulting from water losses over a period of time. Both types of dehydration are defined as a 1% or greater loss of body weight as as result of fluid loss.
When the body is dehydrated, drought management systems take effect. Neurotransmitters such as Histamine become active and can redistribute the amount of water available in circulation or draw it away from other areas. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates water intake and drought management.
Its high production and release is proportional to water shortage especially in children! It also regulates thirst and tells your body to increase water intake. Chronic dehydration can cause histamine release to become very active.
An increased release of this in the lungs causes spasms of the bronchioles, which are designed to conserve water that would normally evaporate during breathing. This excessive release of histamine can lead to certain disorders such as Allergies and Asthma.
Symptoms of Dehydration
- Loss of Appetite
- Flush Skin
- Heat Intolerance
- Light Headed
- Dark Colored Urine
- Dry Mouth
Heat Related Illnesses
Your body has many avenues for water to leak out in which you must replenish what you have lost. Leakage of water can happen through skin pores, the kidney/bladder system and the respiratory system. Increased exercise intensity will increase your sweat rate. This can cause a loss of body weight and a decrease in blood volume.
When this happens, the heart has to work harder to move blood through the bloodstream. Your body has an amazing way of recognizing dysfunction or disorder and is brilliant in responding and trying to correct it. With a decrease in blood volume and body weight, some of these brilliant responses will appear:
- muscle cramps
- heat stroke
- heat exhaustion
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke are two examples of heat related illnesses
Heat Exhaustion is a condition that occurs when people exercise (work or play) in a hot, humid place and body fluids are lost through sweating, causing the body to overheat. The person’s temperature may be elevated, but not above 104 degrees F.
Heat stroke is a medical condition that is life-threatening. The person’s cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working and the internal body temperature rises to the point where brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result (temperature may reach 105 degrees F).
How to Prevent Heat Illnesses
These are basic requirements. These requirements will vary person to person based on body weight, daily nutritional habits, personal energy levels, hours of sleep from the night before and stress. These factors can all contribute to how much fluid intake we can handle.
- Drink 1 bottle of water 2 hours BEFORE exercise
- Drink 1/2 bottle of water or 1/2 electrolyte fluid 15 minutes BEFORE exercise
- Drink 1/2 – 1 bottle of water every 30 minutes DURING exercise
- Drink 1 bottle of water and/or 1 electrolyte fluid DURING exercise if exercise lasts for more than an hour and a half
- Drink 1-2 bottles of water or electrolyte fluid and/or protein shake that has sufficient carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores AFTER exercise
Learn to take care of your body and efficiently replenish what you have lost.
A great way to know if you are hydrated or dehydrated is to check the color of your urine. I’m talking about Hydration Charts! In the bathrooms here at AB, we have Hydration Charts posted so athletes can check the color of their urine. Based on a scale from 1-8, the chart is a simple tool you can use to assess if you are drinking enough fluids.
How often should I check?
Start by examining your early morning urine. You can begin replenishing and hydrating your body immediately after waking up. During these hot summer months, fluid loss from the body increases so water consumption is important.
Checking your urine throughout the day will help you recognize if you need to consume more fluids. Lighter, yellow colored urine means you are well hydrated and darker, yellow colored urine means you are dehydrated and most likely need to consume fluids.
Any color that strays from the normal yellowish color, such as red or dark brown may be problematic and indicate some type of kidney function impairment. Be careful with vitamin supplements because certain vitamins in the supplements can change the color of your urine.
So stay hydrated, check your urine and call out your number when you leave the bathroom!!! 🙂
If you want to download the hydration chart, click on the link below. Don’t be afraid to post this chart in your bathroom.