How do we hydrate effectively?
By Kristian Bunici, Ayrton Walshe and Nicholas Ryan
While the debates about hydration rumble on, how important is the issue for athletes and sports performers?
What there can be no argument about is that:
- 75% of people wake up dehydrated
- Approximately 70% of the human body is water
But dehydration, as defined as a human disease whereby fluids and electrolytes are lost at a rate greater than which they are replaced, is a source of serious confusion.
Dehydration is often a buzz word thrown around on social media and in the more established commentary by sports and medical experts, with little regard for the effects of negligence in understanding the condition.
For instance, dehydration is more than an umbrella term. There are three primary types of dehydration; Hypertonic, Hypotonic and Isotonic dehydration. Secondary to this, an individual may present with either acute or chronic dehydration.
Misunderstanding and deliberate misuse of the term can create issues in treating dehydration and potentially harm individuals. It can also allow companies to exploit confusion in the market by making false claims.
So let’s break down dehydration, what it entails and how we address it.
Acute dehydration occurs over short periods of time, most commonly during physical activity or in warmer temperatures. Athletes can lose 1-2L of fluid per hour during team sports games such as rugby, soccer, basketball and GAA.
Chronic dehydration occurs over longer periods and is linked to illness in many cases. This can lead to issues such as high blood pressure, poor digestive health, poor cognitive function and kidney stones. Water alone may not solve this.
As mentioned dehydration will either be hypertonic, isotonic or hypotonic. Hypertonic dehydration is a majority loss of water, hypotonic dehydration is a majority loss of electrolytes and isotonic dehydration is an equal loss of both fluids and electrolytes.
With this in mind, you can understand the strictness of the EU’s stance on dehydration solutions.
Each type of dehydration alters the way in which it should be treated.
The use of an umbrella term creates the risk of mistreatment and an exacerbation of the condition. This can have severe consequences, especially in treating chronic dehydration.
The older population and those suffering from illness are often at higher risk for chronic dehydration and require more support than simply ingesting bottled water.
Similarly, athletes running vast distances and or exercising in hotter climates will need personalized hydration strategies of water and electrolytes to curb the extensive fluid losses they may experience during exercise.
When science crosses fields with businesses and the media, the importance of respective fields must be appreciated.
Without utilising Science Communicators, failures are almost guaranteed.
Effective communication and respect for education can circumvent this issue and ensure the best result for business success, for the integrity of articles and for the wellbeing of the general public.
Dehydration can impact us all. It has been shown that as little as 1.7% dehydration can impact brain function, and often this correlation is overlooked. This can have dramatic negative effects on performance due to the effects of poor focus and concentration.
However, it is not just a reduction in cognitive function that impacts performance. Dehydration also negatively affects energy and strength.
Of course, water is essential, but to enable water to work effectively, minerals and oils shouldn't be neglected. Hydrating with water alone does not enable the cell to hold on to water and this results in more water being flushed out of the body.
Consuming the full spectrum of electrolytes and trace minerals enables water to work more efficiently in the body as it can be held in the cell, reducing the risk and impact of dehydration on performance.