Dehydration is a common problem for athletes who exercise regularly. How much water should you drink during exercise? What happens to your body when you don’t drink enough water?
For long distance runners in particular, dehydration can be a major concern.
Read on to find out what being dehydrated can do to your muscles when you are at rest or exercising, how you can rehydrate yourself, and how important water is to body function, amongst other things.
What Is Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid from your body than you take in through food or liquids.
If you don’t replace fluids lost through sweating, urination, and breathing, you’ll become dehydrated. Dehydration causes the following problems:
• Reduced blood volume (reduced amount of blood circulating around your body)
• Increased heart rate
• Decreased ability to concentrate
• Changes in body temperature
• Impaired vision
• Muscle cramps
• Loss of coordination
• Increased risk of heat stroke
Why Is It Bad To Get Dehydrated?
You can tell if you are mildly dehydrated as you may feel thirsty after exercising. However, you might not notice thirst until you’ve been exercising for several hours.
You may also experience some of the above symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, nausea and muscle cramps.
How Does Dehydration Affect Muscles?
When you’re dehydrated, your blood becomes less viscous. This means that it takes longer for oxygen-rich red blood cells to travel throughout your body.
The result is slower muscle contraction, which makes it harder to perform physical activity.
It also increases your chances of getting injured because you have reduced flexibility and strength. Dehydration can also cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and muscle cramping.
These symptoms make it hard for you to train effectively and compete well.
Dehydration impacts muscle performance in numerous ways. First, as we have already pointed out, it causes a loss of water content in the tissues and from the blood.
That means that the volume of liquid pumped around the body is reduced, making it harder for the muscles to contract.
In addition, dehydration causes a decrease in the number of red blood cells available to transport oxygen to working muscles. As a result, the muscles need to work harder to produce energy.
Finally, dehydration reduces the amount of glycogen stored in the liver and muscles. Glycogen is the fuel used by muscles to generate energy.
Without this fuel, muscles cannot sustain high levels of activity.
In summary, dehydration decreases the efficiency with which the muscles use oxygen and glucose. This results in an increased demand for both fuels.
To meet these demands, the body must increase its production of ATP, the primary source of cellular energy.
This requires greater amounts of oxygen and glucose. Since these fuels are limited, there will be a shortage of energy available to the muscles.
How To Prevent Dehydration?
You might think that drinking lots of water would prevent dehydration, but it’s important to remember that your body has a limited capacity to store water.
When you sweat, your body loses water through evaporation.
This means that even if you drink plenty of water, you won’t necessarily stay hydrated. There’s a certain knack to staying well hydrated.
Drinking enough water helps keep you well-hydrated by replacing fluids that are lost through sweating and urinating. It also reduces the chances of developing heatstroke.
The best time to drink water is before, during, and immediately after exercise. The most effective way to ensure adequate fluid intake is to consume small and frequent sips throughout the day.
This will help avoid getting too little or too much fluid. It is recommended that you drink about 1.5 liters of water per hour while exercising.
When you exercise, you’ll need to drink more because your body loses more water than it takes in. Drink approximately one liter of water an hour if you plan to exercise for longer than two hours.
Whilst exercising, you should also try drinking sports drinks containing electrolytes, which contain sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride and phosphate.
These are available in health stores and supermarkets.
They provide extra energy and nutrients needed by active people.
You can also try to drink water only from natural sources – just remember that tap water contains chlorine, which can make it difficult to absorb minerals.
Bottled mineral water is better than tap water, but still has traces of chemicals which can dehydrate you.
Try to drink water with meals rather than alone. Water taken with food increases the absorption of water into the bloodstream. Avoid both alcohol and caffeine, both of which can cause dehydration.
Alcohol makes you less likely to drink enough water, and caffeine interferes with the absorption of water into your system.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
As mentioned earlier, the best way to ensure adequate fluid consumption is to consume small, frequent small sips throughout the day, especially before, during and after exercise.
The National Institute of Health recommends consuming at least 2 liters of water a day.
However, this recommendation is based on studies conducted in temperate climates where temperatures are moderate.
In tropical countries, the average person needs 3 liters of water a day just to survive.
In hot weather, you may lose more water than usual through perspiration and urination.
If you’re exercising in hot conditions, try to drink more water. You should drink at least half your weight in ounces (about 10 oz) of water each day.
For example, if you weigh 100 lbs, then you should aim to drink 50 oz of water every day.
You can use a special bottle called a Camelbak bottle to carry water if you are exercising outside with limited access to water.
Camelbacks have a large capacity and can be used to carry up to 20 liters of water. You can buy them from sporting goods shops and online retailers.
In conclusion, dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, seizures, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.
When your muscles are dehydrated, they are forced to work a lot harder.
Dehydration is caused when the amount of water in your blood decreases, causing cells to swell and become damaged. To prevent dehydration, follow these guidelines:
• Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.
• Try to drink water with meals instead of drinking it alone.
• Stay hydrated by avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
• Keep your skin covered so that sweat doesn’t evaporate.
• Be sure to drink water while exercising.
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