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Improving performance through proper hydration

Being an athlete, grinding out countless reps in the gym or endless kilometers on the road means one thing; huge sweat losses, which if not dealt with properly can have some pretty serious implications to our training program or competitive outcome.

Fluid losses are a natural and desirable way for the body to regulate temperature, but if we fail to hydrate properly (either not enough or too much) we can seriously hinder our performance, and our health. The effects of dehydration can be felt with as little as a 2% drop in body weight, with some researchers suggesting that it can decrease aerobic capacity by as much as 10-20%. It is with stats like this that have many believing that proper hydration is the single best way to improve performance. What it is interesting to note about dehydration is that its effects can be cumulative; if we fail to hydrate properly after each training session or race, we are doing ourselves a disservice the next time we hit the road. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, confusion, light-headedness, dry lips and skin, physical/mental fatigue, decreased pace and performance, dark urine, and an increase in body temperature and heart rate.

While it is important to prevent dehydration, over-hydration (aka hyponatremia) also has some serious, and potentially fatal consequences. More so seen in long distance runners or triathletes, this metabolic imbalance occurs when we drink too much water, while failing to replace valuable electrolytes, particularly sodium. As the water content of our blood increases, the salt content (which is needed to maintain blood volume, muscle contraction, and cardiac function) becomes diluted, meaning less and less is available to our tissues. Symptoms of over-hydration include nausea/vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy, restlessness, muscle cramps, and more severely, seizures and death.

Optimizing hydration starts prior to training or competition, and a formula like acvtivfuel+/ Vegan activfuel+ is a great way to ensure you give your body the right amount of fluids, and electrolytes, as it contains not only sodium and potassium (two key electrolytes in maintaining hydration), but a source of freeze dried coconut water… nature’s sports drink! Coconut water is a great addition to this formula as it naturally provides the body with five key electrolytes to aid in both sports performance and maintaining good health.

  1. Potassium – this is the most important positive ion outside of your cells and regulates heart beat and muscle function
  2. Sodium – most important ion inside your cells, and helps to regulate blood volume, the sensation of thirst, muscle contraction, and cardiac rhythm. Sodium is the most depleted with exercise as you loose it through both sweat and urine.
  3. Magnesium – important for proper carbohydrate and protein metabolism as well as maintaining the electrical potential of your cells, proper muscle function and prevent calcium overload
  4. Phosphorus – important role in bone health, but also plays a role in transferring energy throughout the body helping muscles contract and regulate nerve function. Partners with calcium
  5. Calcium– important for bone health and muscle contraction. Partners with phosphorus.

Other sports drinks on the market may have some of these electrolytes added in, but often come with a wide array of not so natural ingredients we don’t want like artificial colours, flavours, and unpronounceable chemicals, not to mention a huge whack of sugar that for most of us is way too much to deal with. Another negative? Consuming these types of drinks are often associated with gastrointestinal upset and discomfort, which is ironic for a product that is supposed to enhance performance, not hinder it. While these ingredients take from your health, coconut water gives to it, by also containing an interesting set of molecules known as cytokinins (aka plant hormones) that have been associated with having an anti-aging affect on human cells and tissues.

There is no denying that when it comes to nutrition, water is definitely our life blood, however for improving sports performance, adequate water intakes plays just one part in the unique makeup that is an athlete’s body. Optimizing hydration comes by fueling the body with both fluids and natural sources of electrolytes quenching thirst properly and nourishing health in the process.

Your passion. Your performance. Your body. Your health. It Matters.

References:

Mercola, J. “ 71% of those who drank coconut water lowered their blood pressure”. Mercola.com. Accessed Online: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/27/coconut-water-ultimate-rehydrator.aspx

 

Bean, A. The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition; 7th Edition. Bloomsbury. 2003.