The importance of fluid balance & hydration

We Will Cover

*Determining Hydration Needs
*What is Dehydration?
*What Does Dehydration Feel Like?
*The Dangers of Dehydration and How it Impacts Performance
*Determining Hydration Needs
*How to Hydrate before and During Exercise
*Rehydrating after Workouts
*Fluid Intake after Being Dehydrated – Rapid Rehydration
*Sports Drinks vs. Water

Water performs several important functions in the body:

Water dissolves and transports minerals, vitamins, proteins, and other important substances throughout the body.
Water speeds up the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients.
Water lubricates our eyes, joints, spinal cord, and other areas of the body.
Water regulates body temperature.
Water helps catalyze chemical reactions in the body.

To perform optimally and to be healthy we need to have fluid balance. This means that the amount of water you consume needs to equal the water you lose during the day.

How do we lose water?

By sweating and through the skin, when eliminating waste, and when exhaling during breathing.

And how do we take in more fluids?

The only way to get water in is to consume it, although this is not restricted to drinking water. All beverages you consume provide water, as do foods you eat. Just be sure to stick to eating a balanced diet and skip sugary drinks. Focus on foods that have more water than others, like fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains and beans.
FYI.. fatty foods provide less water.

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration is the loss of water and electrolytes—mineral salts like sodium, calcium, and potassium—from the body to the degree that it impairs body functions.
If you feel thirsty or you are already dehydrated. And if you’re in the middle of an athletic performance, you can’t recover that hydration quickly enough. Your performance is already suffering.

What Does Dehydration Feel Like?

Thirst and dry mouth
Darker urine
Flushing of the skin
Elevated body temperature
Increased breathing rate
Elevated pulse

Dehydration Impacts Performance
Dehydration triggers muscle cramps, nausea, and headaches. You will lose some muscular endurance and strength and your overall performance will decrease.

The Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration can lead to:
Kidney failure.
Heat exhaustion.

Determining Hydration Needs

If you are engaging in exercise on any particular day, two liters of water plus water from a healthy diet—this includes several servings of fruits and vegetables—is adequate for hydration. This basic formula can be scaled up for larger people and those exercising and sweating a lot, and down for smaller individuals.

To be more specific, there are two basic calculations for determining fluid needs:

~Metabolic rate. You need to consume 80 to 110 milliliters of water for every 100 kilocalories of metabolic rate. For example, if your BMR is 2,000, you should be drinking 1.6 to 2.2 liters of water per day as a baseline.

~Body weight. A slightly easier way to estimate water needs is by weight. Consume 30 to 40 milliliters of water for every kilogram of weight. If you weight 50 kilograms (110 pounds), for instance, you need at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day.

FYI… you need to up your baseline fluid intake amounts in the following situations:

~When temperatures are high, you sweat more and need more fluids to replenish lost water.
~More intense and longer workouts also increase sweat output.
~Exercising during warm weather conditions requires that you increase fluid intake even more.

How to Hydrate before and During Exercise

When working out, a good general rule is to drink 500 milliliters (about two cups) a half an hour in advance and to get in 250 milliliters of fluid every 15 minutes during the activity. The idea is to get pre-hydrated so you start exercise in a state of having extra fluid and a good electrolyte balance. Drinking during the workout helps maintain hydration and prevent dehydration.

Rehydrating after Workouts

Even with good efforts to stave off dehydration during a workout or sporting event you are likely to have lost a lot of fluids and electrolytes. The purpose of hydration post-workout is to rehydrate and to assist recovery. Without proper rehydration at this point you risk becoming dehydrated and delaying recovery.

Fluid Intake after Being Dehydrated – Rapid Rehydration

If you do get excessively dehydrated after an activity, you need to take steps to get rehydrated as quickly as possible. It’s not difficult to get to this state, especially when you misjudge the weather conditions or when the event or workout is tougher than you anticipated and fluids aren’t top of mind during the activity. To rehydrate rapidly, take in up to 1.5 liters of fluid per hour. This is as much as the body can absorb, so drinking more than that will not be useful.

Some situations in which it is important to rehydrate at this rate include:

In between events during a long tournament.
After an intense workout in hot conditions.
After intentionally dehydrating for a body sport weigh-in.

Protein Intake for Hydration

The latest sports science research indicates that getting some protein during and after a workout is a beneficial part of rehydrating. Protein helps enhance recovery, muscle protein synthesis, glycogen synthesis, and immune function. It also reduces muscle soreness. As a good general rule, add 15 grams of protein to 600 milliliters of fluid that you use during and after exercise.

Sports Drinks vs. Water – The Importance of Electrolytes

For most people who are not exercising intensely, water and a healthy diet are adequate for maintaining good hydration. For athletes, on the other hand, and for your clients if they’re pushing hard on a race day or during a heavy training session, water doesn’t quite cut it.

Electrolytes are the minerals in our bodily fluids that conduct electrical signals and assist in a lot of other important functions. As with fluid balance, you need to maintain a balance between electrolytes in and electrolytes out. When you sweat a lot, you lose water as well as electrolytes, so in any situation in which you are training, performing, or just working out, you need to include electrolytes in fluid intake.

A good sports drink likely provides what you need for electrolytes during training and events, but generally you should aim for six to eight percent electrolytes in a fluid for the best results.

Carbohydrates are important too. In your sports drink or homemade fluid mix, be sure to include 30 to 40 grams of carbs in 500 milliliters of water, a six to eight percent solution. Carbohydrates help with absorption of water and electrolytes, improve endurance during activities, decrease the body’s stress response, decrease inflammation after working out, and improve glycogen synthesis.

The Risks of Over-Hydration

Athletes are at risk of going overboard on hydration before and during events. Even the most experienced athletes are vulnerable. In a study from Europe, researchers found that ten percent of the over 1,000 competitors in the Ironman European Championships had hyponatremia.

If you drink too much, especially plain water without electrolytes, before and even during or after a sporting event, you can end up with hyponatremia—low concentrations of sodium in body fluids. In other words you dilute blood and other fluids until the levels of electrolytes are dangerously low.

Just like dehydration, hyponatremia can become severe and even be fatal.

Early signs of the condition include:

Nausea and vomiting
Gastrointestinal distress
Swelling in the hands and feet
Confusion and restlessness

Ultimately, hyponatremia can cause brain cells to increase water content causing cerebral edema, excessive fluid and swelling in the brain. This condition is fatal if not addressed. It’s unlikely that in the normal course of trying to hydrate for physical activities that you will develop severe hyponatremia, but it is something to be aware of and to avoid.