Did you know that proper hydration is the first limiting factor in performance? Yes! Not giving your body enough fluids to replace losses will impact your performance much sooner low amounts of carbs, fat, proteins, vitamins, or minerals.
It’s commonly known that most athletes are dehydrated going into practice or competition. This can be looked at many ways, but I see it as a golden opportunity. If hydration is the first limiting factor in performance, then this means any athlete can get a massive jump on their competition simply by ensuring proper fluid replacement!
To dig in a little deeper…let’s break down what sweat is, why it’s important, and how we can use nutrition to reach an athletic advantage.
Why Do We Sweat?
The process of sweating actually allows our bodies to regulate its optimal temperature. Without enough available fluids to “sweat away”, our core temperature will rise and could result in heat illnesses. (*Think about how hard running would be if your internal temperature was extremely high, or extremely low). This is also the reason why athletes need to replenish lost fluids during and after lengthy or intense exercises.
How Is Performance Impacted by Hydration Status?
Most athletes do not realize the impact competing in a dehydrated state can have on performance and even health. A loss of sweat equal to 1% can impact performance. Thirst is not felt until 2%, and is also the point when mental and physical performance noticeably declines. A 5% loss due to sweat results in decreased work power by roughly 30%. Competition in environments that are hot or humid temperatures, increases one’s risk of heat stress much higher. Symptoms of heat stress from exertion include tachycardia (fast heart beat), hypotension (low blood pressure), hyperventilation, diarrhea, vomiting, coma, and/or seizures.
What Food Sources Help Replenish Lost Electrolytes?
Electrolyte replacement can come through several different forms; tablets, gels, powders, and yes – whole foods! Foods that are naturally salty, like table salt, contain sodium chloride…As does olives, pickles, shrimp, pretzels/crackers, canned beans, or soups. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, tofu/soybeans, beans, lentils, and chia seeds. Foods rich in potassium are avocados, bananas, dried apricots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and coconut water. Lastly, magnesium can be found in avocados, high % cacao dark chocolate, cashews, legumes, tofu, and pumpkin seeds.
What Is Sweat Made Up Of Exactly?
Sweat is made up of water and five different minerals. These minerals are also commonly referred to as electrolytes.
Sodium: critical for fluid retention, nerve signaling, & muscle contractions
Potassium: vital for muscle contraction of the heart and muscles, also helps balance sodium
Chloride: pairs well with sodium, is one of the most abundant electrolytes, and also aids in fluid regulation
Calcium: helps muscles to contract, aids in nerve signaling and normal heart rhythms
Magnesium: helps muscles to relax, deficiencies may cause spasms/cramping
If you want more information on how to optimize your performance, or how to calculate your exact sweat rate, use the link HERE for a call!
If you think you may be competing in a dehydrated state, take the first step by clicking HERE to see.