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Effects of Dehydration on Performance

This post is brought to you by the Superior Athletics staff

The importance of drinking water is something that has been stressed to us since we were in grade school. We were told that the body is made up of 60% water, and that keeps our organs functioning properly.

For athletes, particularly those who practice outside in the warmer months, hydration is something that needs to be taken far more seriously than for someone who is just sitting on the couch as higher temperatures and increased activity will speed up how fast your body dehydrates.

This can be dangerous when it reaches extreme levels, but it can also affect an athlete’s photo (2)performance. As the body loses water, blood volume is reduced, blood flow to the skin decreases, the amount you sweat slows down, and your core temperature and rate of muscle glycogen use increase as your body struggles to retain what fluids it has left.

Think of your body like a car: you can drive it with a little gas in it, but it won’t run as well as it would with a full tank.

How do these effects impact my performance?

While it isn’t currently clear how much dehydration affects muscle strength, it has been shown to have a significant impact on both aerobic and endurance capacity. In a study, fluid loss equivalent to 2% of body mass resulted in impaired running performance at 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 m distances.

Although the impaired performance on aerobic and endurance performance may seem to be a problem that only track and cross-country athletes would struggle with, any athlete could have a game that suffers as a result of dehydration. As an athlete becomes more dehydrated, their ability to sprint, run, and change directions declines. This can translate to a missed pass, a blocked shot, or a tackle on the football field.

How do I make sure this doesn’t happen?

Drinking water during breaks in activity definitely helps, but if you’re already dehydrated when you arrived, you can still be at risk. Make sure to drink half of your body weight in ounces per day in water to make sure that you maintain an adequate amount of fluid in your system at all times. Try to stay out of extremely hot workout environments and if you absolutely can’t avoid it, make sure that you wear the proper clothing and continue to hydrate while you exercise.

What’s the deal with sports drinks?

With the advertising and the constant references to electrolytes being the ultimate necessity in sports performance, sports drinks alone have made themselves into a more than $1.5 billion dollar industry. Do you really need them? Unless you’re severely dehydrated, probably not.

Sports drinks are packed with sugar, sometimes more than 10 teaspoons per bottle. You can get the same hydration, with none of the sugar with water.

photo (1)

If you feel as though you might becoming severely dehydrated, generally evidenced by muscle cramps, you may need more electrolytes than at other times. You can accomplish this with more water and some fruit, a small amount of sports drink, or coconut water. Don’t rely on sports drinks to cure you of everything, it starts with water!

At Superior Athletics, we want our athletes to be the best they can be, both on the field and off. To do this, they first need to take care of their bodies to ensure that they get the most out of it possible.

While we have a drink machine with the resources available that we recommend each athlete have, we also want to make sure that athletes are doing what is necessary at all times.

Be responsible and take your hydration seriously. It can mean the difference in a lot of ways.

About the author

Bill Rom

Bill Rom is a strength and conditioning coach on Long Island, New York. Bill has been training both athletes and general population clients since 2006. His clients have ranged from adolescents to 70 year old grandmothers, and from peewee athletes up to former and current D1 athletes. At Prospect Sports, where Bill is the director, he works with a number of professional athletes from the NFL, MLB, MiLB and more. Additionally, Bill has been published on EliteFTS.com, one of the top strength and conditioning websites in the world, as well as Stack.com; a website dedicated to improving athletes and is currently working on stories for LiveStrong.com. He also has done a number of speaking engagements including the NSCA and is continuing to pick up more. Bill is one of the top young strength and conditioning coaches in the country, and arguably the top strength coach on Long Island.

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