When it comes to improving your performance and giving you the edge over the competition a lot of people immediately start to look at supplements, new training routines, exercises etc. Maybe they may look in to their nutrition strategies or even lifestyle/sleep (which is great!) But not a lot of people think about water!
Water is everything to our bodies, it allows us to live, survive and thrive. Without adequate hydration our bodies simply cannot function optimally and therefore our performance will be sub-par. Dehydration can result in a higher heart rate, higher perceived exertion, muscle weakness, reduced endurance, muscle cramps & spasms, lack of concentration and a reduced reaction time and an increased sense of fatigue. Which is exactly the opposite of what you want during a sporting platform.
The scary thing is, is that research has shown that it doesn’t take much in order for dehydration to begin to impact us, in fact research has shown that only a 2% loss in bodyweight through dehydration has been shown to impact our performance, 3% and it starts to get dangerous and increase your chance of a Heat illness such as heat stroke. Some athletes can lose 6-10% of their bodyweight during competition which emphasises the importance of rehydrating.
Along with water loss you will also lose electrolytes and salts through increased sweating, this can cause further muscle weakness and cramps etc. So depending on the activity and individual it is also important to maybe considering an electrolyte supplement along with water especially if it is an event that lasts multiple hours and in a hot climate.
It is therefore very important to ensure that you are fully hydrated before training/competition and maintain your hydration levels during to help replace the fluid lost through an increased perspiration and sweating. Afterwards is also essential, your body needs the water in your body to help remove the toxins built up through exercise and rehydrate your cells.
Things that can increase dehydration are things like alcohol, caffeine (coffee, tea & energy drinks), lifestyle factors such as smoking, environmental factors such as heat/humidity/pollution, type of exercise, exercise duration, medication and some supplements such as Vitamin C which can have a diuretic effect for example.
An easy way to ensure you are fully hydrated is simply your quench for thirst, if you are already thirsty then you are already beginning to become slightly dehydrated. Another one is your pee, by checking its colour, volume and odour you can tell if your dehydrated or not. Urine should be straw-like yellow/clear with little smell and should have a decent amount of volume. If you notice you are dehydrated start sipping on water trying to consume fluids immediately and every 15 mins until everything is where it should be.