Most of us already know that water makes up a significant portion of the human body. In fact, around 60% of the average adult body consists of water. Many vital organs such as the lungs, heart, brain, kidneys and muscles depend heavily upon adequate hydration. With all these vital organs primarily consisting of water, it’s easy to understand that staying hydrated is particularly important when it comes to heart-pumping exercise.
Every year, local media typically report on at least a few high school or college athletes who become dehydrated, either during their workout sessions or in the middle of a game. One or more players will get sidelined with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, excessive fatigue or muscle issues such as
During exercise, our core body temperature rises. This temperature will rise even more rapidly if we attempt to exercise in higher temperatures, especially if humidity is present. As our core body temperature rises, our rate of perspiration increases as well. As a result, drawing fluids away from internal organs & other tissues. As our vital organs become more dehydrated, the heart rate increases, and it becomes increasingly difficult for the body to keep its core body temperature at a proper level.
That is why even the young, healthy adults can quickly become ill from dehydration while performing intense exercise. In severe cases, dehydration may lead to heatstroke, which can be life-threatening.
Conversely, if we are properly hydrated, our heart will be able to pump blood more easily during exercise. This means blood vessels will be able to deliver the water, oxygen, electrolytes, etc., that muscles require in order to efficiently performing their job.
While becoming dehydrated during an intense workout session is often readily apparent since a person is likely to experience obvious signs of illness, the same cannot be said of milder or chronic cases of dehydration.
A person who is mildly or chronically dehydrated may have difficulty sleeping or increased fatigue during their waking hours. This can happen when dehydration lowers certain amino acids involved in the production of melatonin. This is a hormone that plays a vital role in a person’s sleep/wake cycle. Even mild, chronic dehydration can result in reduced levels of refreshing sleep. Lesser sleep can lead to reduced reaction times and potentially, cognitive impairment of our decision-making abilities.
Ideally, a person should prepare themselves months before they know they will be engaging in intense workout. Trying to play “catch up” by practicing good health habits a week before practice begins is often not enough time for a body to fully benefit from making healthful changes.
Athletes who really want to avoid dehydration should consume a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables typically contain a higher percentage of water than other foods, helping our body to remain in a well-hydrated state. If an athlete is having trouble sleeping and they don’t know why it might be a good idea to make an appointment with a medical professional to determine if their lack of sleep is due to dehydration.
Avoid caffeine, especially around exercise time. Actually, caffeine is a diuretic that draws water from the body. There are electrolyte-infused sports drinks available to drink during exercise. Generally, it’s best to try and stick with low sugar sports drinks.
If one begins to experience signs of muscle cramping or spasming, or they develop a headache during exercise, should not ignore the symptoms and continue to play. Talk to the coach or your medical expert on the field and let them know you aren’t feeling well.
If you have any questions about how hydration or physical therapy can positively affect your sport’s performance, feel free to contact the SOS Physio Rehab clinic near you.