Article updated on: 2/5/2018
During exercise, the body loses water and mineral salts. The more effort the sport demands, the more accentuated the loss becomes. Replacing liquids is very important to help your body perform at its highest level. Unfortunately, many athletes don’t pay enough attention to hydrating the body and may suffer the consequences sooner or later.
Why is good hydration so important?
- Water makes up more than half of your body weight (approximately 60%);
- Water is the main means of transport used by the body to deliver the nutrients to the cells;
- Water helps regulate internal body temperature;
- Water is necessary for adequate lubrication of the joints and spinal column;
- Without water, it is impossible to form the hundreds of enzymes that catalyse the millions of chemical reactions which make the body function on a daily basis;
- Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, perform a pivotal role in the way the nervous impulses are conducted through the neurons.
The importance of electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals in our body that have an electrical charge. Common electrolytes include sodium, chloride, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium.
Electrolytes are necessary for regulating body hydration and blood pH, as well as the functioning of the neurons, assisting in the retransmission of nerve impulses from your nervous system to different body parts. Some electrolytes also play a role in oxygen flow and supply to the brain; others help your muscles to contract and relax.
The body loses electrolytes through sweat (which is why our sweat is salty, due to mineral salts). The higher the percentage of electrolytes lost by the body during physical exercise, the lower the physical and mental capacity will be. Therefore, you should not only replace the fluids, but also the electrolytes you lose through perspiration. Salted snacks or, even better, sports drinks are practical solutions to replenish these minerals during long bouts of exercise. It’s recommendable use them if we’re going to practice more than 2 hours of physical activity.
Impact of dehydration on sports performance
Dehydration occurs when there is an excessive loss of body water. As the body becomes dehydrated, both physical and mental performances become impaired, which is more evident in sportspeople.
Dehydration affects sports performance as follows:
- Increased heart rate;
- Impaired body heat regulation;
- Increased perceived exertion, that is, exercise feels harder than usual and we fatigue earlier;
- Reduced mental function, increasing response and reaction time.
Main signs of dehydration
Every level of dehydration impairs sports performance and the consequences get worse as the de degree of dehydration increases. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to the first warning signs:
- Increased thirst;
- Dry or sticky mouth;
- Impaired mental focus;
- Low urine output;
- Inability to produce tears;
- Dry skin.