lincoln nh health waterSpecial thanks to the Chiropractic Sports Institute for this article!

Recently I was asked to care for the Elite Athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Expecting to discover hidden secrets on how to increase athletic performance out of the human body, I was surprised to learn that one of the most discussed topics was body hydration. Body water and athletic performance are directly connected, and when understood, can be the difference between a winning performance and one that is sub par.

Your body needs about 1 ml of water for every calorie that you expend. For example, if you burn 4,000 to 5,000 calories per day (moderate to aggressive athletic workouts), you would need between 4 to 5 liters of fluid to replace what was lost and to keep the biochemistry in proper balance. Monitoring body weight before and after training is the best way to keep up with your body’s fluid needs, which sweating increases. If you don’t believe that hydration can affect athletic performance ask Lance Armstrong. He lost 15 lbs due to dehydration following the first time trial of the Tour de France and suffered the next few days more than usual.

Although a 2% weight loss due to dehydration may not cause any “symptoms”, it does decrease physical performance.

  Water Loss as % of Body Weight
  2% – Difficulty in controlling normal body temperature
  3% – Reduced muscular endurance time
  4%-6% – Reduced strength, power, endurance and heat cramps
  6% – Severe heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke

During exercise, especially in the heat, some of the water that naturally circulates through your body is used by your sweat glands. Inadequate fluid balance can result in a chain reaction that can be severely detrimental to your health. The first step in this reaction is a decrease in blood volume, which increases the heart rate in an attempt to get the fluids to the vital organs. The body’s next reaction is to constrict the blood vessels in order to maintain proper blood pressure. However, this reaction will cause the body temperature to rise due to the heat produced by the working muscles which can’t be transported to the skin’s surface. This leads to heat illnesses such as heat cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke.

To avoid this chain reaction you must stay properly hydrated during your exercise. The recommended fluid intake for exercise or training is 8 to 12 ounces fifteen minutes before you begin your exercises. During your training, drink 4-6 ounces every 10 to 15 minutes. After you have completed your training, you should consume 16 ounces for every pound lost (weigh yourself before and after exercise to determine weight loss). If you are working out longer than 60 minutes, a sports drink may be helpful in delaying fatigue by providing additional energy for working muscles. It will also be helpful in the overall chemistry balance since it will be replacing needed electrolytes that are lost during the sweating process. A 5% to 8% concentration of carbohydrates (as seen in most sports drinks) has been shown to be absorbed quickly. The small amount of electrolytes can also aid in the absorption of water from the intestines.

With the heat of the summer here, be smart in your training. Do not exercise during the hottest times of the day (10-3), stay hydrated and properly warm up and cool down. To avoid heat illness and decrease your overall performance, remember this: an athlete should never be thirsty!