Water may be considered one of the world’s most fundamental nutrients for life. Therefore, a lack of water within the body is capable of negatively impacting nearly every activity that we try to perform. Since the perception of thirst is an inaccurate indicator of the need to consume water, dehydration has become a common ailment that often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
If we investigate the research, dehydration has a profound effect on physical measures. Acute dehydration has been linked to conditions such as headaches, irritability, muscle cramps, and fatigue; while chronic dehydration can cause severe issues like weight gain, elevated cholesterol, autoimmune diseases, asthma, and allergies. Jet lag and repetitive stress injuries can also be minimized with hydration strategies by boosting circulation and depositing more oxygen-rich blood to the stressed tissues. As you can see, the consequences of dehydration are genuinely endless.
Athlete’s lives are predicated by rituals and routines, which give them a sense of control over chaotic environments. Dehydration then can cause a feeling of uneasiness for athletes because they can no longer control variables they rely on to succeed. Dehydration of as little as 1-2% of body weight can begin to influence strength, power, and fatigue rates negatively.
One of the most detrimental performance effects that an athlete can face due to dehydration is the lack of neuromuscular control infinite movements. If you look at a baseball pitcher, they are rewarded for control and accuracy. Strikeouts and home runs are the results of strict communication between the nervous system and the muscles they innervate. Dehydration results in decreased blood volume, which can lead to premature fatigue and ultimately result in this loss of control. In a study by Distefano et al., 2012, researchers found that when athletes were dehydrated, they displayed unwanted hip, knee, and ankle movements as well as poor landing techniques on jumping exercises. Dehydration not only compromises our success, but it also predisposes our body to increased injury potential.
The usual guidelines given to instructors and coaches are that a person should drink approximately two liters of water per day. Exercise and heat increase the demand for fluids. As the body works harder, more heat is created, which needs to be lost. Approximately 75% of the energy used in exercise produces heat, with the remaining 25% going to useful work. The heat loss occurs when we sweat and also when we exhale. Although it is common to think of dehydration in the context of heat and exercise, if the environment is arid, then the significant fluid loss can also occur through the skin and exhaled breath.
Success in any endeavor is predicated by having the optimal resources in the correct amounts. Therefore, achieving our optimal performance cannot be achieved without attaining adequate hydration levels. Health, wellness, longevity, hormone balance, and performance will all benefit from staying in-tune with your body hydration needs.