By Gabrielle Maston
Hydration is often the last thing athletes think about when going into competition and training. However it can be one of the most important factors in maintaining your endurance performance and skill.
Hydration is so important because it affects concentration, motor control and body temperature. These are determining factors of on field performance and lasting marathon events.
Water is the most essential fluid for life. Our cells need water for all metabolic processes. Imagine a fire without oxygen, the flame will just die. The same thing happens to our cells. It’s necessary to transport nutrients through the blood stream, assist chemical reactions and keep tissues moist.
Nutrients such as sugars used to power muscle, proteins used to repair muscle are transported in the blood stream. If blood volume decreases due to less fluid in the system it makes it hard to transport nutrients to working muscles during competition. Less sugar to working muscles will induce faster fatigue, reduce running speed and mostly likely affect the distance you are able to complete before “hitting the wall”.
In team based skill sports dehydration can affect your accuracy, timing and concentration. This is again due to poor circulation of blood to the brain, poor delivery of sugars which are fuel for the brain. When stepping on to the playing field, make sure you’re at optimal hydration for your best chance to perform skilfully. It only takes 2% reduction in your body weight worth of fluid for it to have a detrimental effect on your sporting performance.
To determine your fluid losses during training and events step on the scale and weigh in pre and post exercise. The amount of kilo’s lost will be the amount of fluid you have sweated out. This needs to be replaced as soon as possible before it starts affecting your game. It will also help you recover better after training. Water helps flush out toxins and metabolites, which contribute to muscle soreness and inflammation.
How do you know if you are dehydrated?
The easiest test is a urine test. Take note of your urine colour when going to the bath room. If your urine runs clear you’re optimally hydrated. If it’s yellow, drink some more water. Coloured drinks and vitamins will not affect the colour of your urine unless it contains Vitamin C or B vitamins, for instance berocca or your common Vitamin C supplement will turn your urine unnaturally orange.
The general rules to hydrate are to make sure you are drinking at least 200-500ml water at each meal time days before leading up to a game or event. Using sports drinks will also help rehydrate you faster and help restore carbohydrate stores particularly if you are depleted from training.
In the summer months be aware that you may need more fluid than normal. Sweat rates, body temperature increases creating larger demands for fluid. You may need to increase the amount of water and sports drinks in the loading phase days before the event and drink more during competition.
In order to get your hydration right, practice during training. Particularly in marathon events when you’re drinking on the run, or cycling and sipping through a straw, you have to get timing right. You have to allow time for water stations.
In team sports such as foot ball and hockey, practice drinking during game stops, half time and pre and post match. All of this helps to make hydration seamless, so all you need to concentrate on is performing well and winning.
Water is for life, it also helps you become a champion!
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