Hydration and it’s effects on your body.

We all want to perform our best during a sporting event. Our bodies’ fluid levels are extremely important in allowing us to perform at an optimal level; the slightest amount of dehydration (minimum 2% of your body mass), can affect your performance significantly.

Dehydration can have a negative effect on the body’s endurance exercise ability; fatigue can set in and your performance ability is diminished. You may also experience symptoms such as reduced mental and motor functioning, and abdominal distress (nausea, vomiting and gastric cramping).

So to avoid dehydration during a sporting event you need to ensure you are consuming the right product to complement your training. Water is the most accessible and inexpensive fluid that is needed to rehydrate your body.  However, some people don’t like the taste of plain water and it lacks nutrients such as carbohydrates and electrolytes (which are lost during exercise). Fruit juices are also a good option to drink to rehydrate as they contain carbohydrates to replenish the diminished muscle glycogen levels. They should be consumed at a 5% concentration and opt for less acidic juices to avoid stomach upset. There are other alternatives, such as over the counter sports drinks (Powerade or Gatorade), or professional hydration fluids (found in health food stores). Both options are generally well balanced with nutrients, ideal for prolonged exercise, and have a variety of flavours. They can be expensive, however, and may be difficult to obtain.  It is also important to remember to consume these drinks cold, not at room temperature. This is due to the fact that numerous studies have found that the nutrients are absorbed faster and therefore rehydration and performance improves more quickly.

There are drinks to avoid during exercise or sporting events. These include caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate drinks & Guarana drinks), fluids with tannins (red wine & green and black tea), sodium drinks (fizzy drinks), and alcohol. This is because most of these types of drinks will dehydrate your body further, have a diuretic effect on the body, and impair your body’s performance.

An overview for ensuring adequate hydration before a sporting event could be as follows: the night before, begin drinking fluids (around 200ml) every 30 minutes. Continue this on the day of the event up until 20 minutes before the event (this is because it takes roughly 20 minutes for the stomach to empty). During the event you should consume anywhere from 800mls to 2100mls per hour (sipping only); however, this will depend on the duration of the sport and the intensity required. After the event you need to start refueling with carbohydrates (drinks and foods) and complete hydration can take up to 12 hours.

These are all important points to remember when exercising/training for a sporting event, and how without the correct hydrating techniques your body may not perform at its best.

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