By James Piccolino, D.C., Moises Irizarry-Roman, M.D., and Orlando Granado-Balaez, R.N.
Staying hydrated is not only important for your performance but also for your health.
What is dehydration? Dehydration is a combination loss of electrolytes and water. Many times athletes don’t understand why they’re dehydrated because they’ve been drinking water all day. You need to drink water to replenish its loss, but by only drinking water you’re further diluting the electrolytes left in your body. If you’ve ever tasted your sweat, you know it isn’t just water. It’s salty. Those are the electrolytes that also need replenishing!
Dehydration can cost you a 30% drop in performance, not to mention excruciating cramps or worse. Several times while providing emergency service at local competitions, we’ve responded to athletes writhing in pain from extreme muscle cramping. Unfortunately, these athletes have to pull out of the competition early; something that could be easily avoided. Common early signs of dehydration are thirst, dry mouth, darker colored urine, and light-headedness. These symptoms can first appear at just 2% dehydration.
Check your urine! If your urine is not clear and is dark for over 3 hours, you are probably dehydrated.
When to Hydrate: It’s best to consume water and sports drinks at a rate equal to your activity level instead of all at once. Drinking too much fluid prior to physical activity can actually make you sluggish.
How to Hydrate: Studies have shown the colder the fluid is, the more easily it is absorbed. A good rule of thumb is to take a semi frozen drink to your workout for optimum performance and to cool down the body. During hot and humid months, drink water with electrolytes commonly found in products such as Gatorades/Powerades.
What about coconut water? Some say ‘but coconut water is the closest thing to human blood electrolyte-wise’. The electrolytes in coconut water are very close to the electrolytes in human blood, but when vigorously exercising like you would in a WOD, you need more electrolytes than the ones found even in coconut water. Quick tip: If coconut water is your go to thirst quencher, simply add a pinch of salt to it and you’re good to go!