Common health risks often overlooked in the athletic community are dehydration and heat illness. Dehydration can not only lead to health issues such as heat illness, but can also affect your work and sports performance.
Did You Know?
- Thirst is not always a sufficient indicator of hydration. In fact, strong thirst may be a sign that you are already 2-3 % dehydrated.
- 1% level of dehydration can decrease athletic performance.
- 3% could put you in the high risk zone!
More often than not, we don’t drink nearly enough water, let alone consume enough electrolytes to keep a healthy fluid balance – especially when we are busy doing other things. The amount of water and electrolytes we lose often exceeds the amount of fluid we drink. We lose our bodily fluids through everyday activities such as sweating, going to the bathroom, and even breathing. The more liquid that is lost, the thicker the blood becomes and the harder the heart has to work to pump blood to the body. This causes an increased chance of health risks such as fatigue, tiredness, headaches, lack of concentration, dizziness, constipation, digestive problems, dehydration and even heat illness and cramping.
SWEAT = Fluid Loss → Dehydration → Heat Illness
Think you’re consuming enough liquids?
Did you know that your daily cup of Joe or your afternoon energy drink are actually depleting fluids? These liquids contain caffeine and processed sugars that can contribute to dehydration, leaving your tank empty when you want to perform your best or enjoying activities you love.
Warning Signs of Dehydration
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Dry skin
- Tired or sleepy
- Decreased urine output
- Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal
Heat Illness in Athletes
Among the negative effects of dehydration is heat illness. The risk of heat illness is even greater in places where there is high humidity such our very own state of Florida. Athletes typically practice and compete outdoors for hours and are at risk for developing signs of dehydration as well as heat illness and cramping. But don’t be fooled, athletes competing indoors are at just as much risk for developing dehydration and even heat illness and cramping because the body is still generating heat and losing fluids from high levels of activities. Additionally, children and the elderly are at higher risk for developing heat illness.
Common symptoms of heat illness are headaches, dizziness, muscle fatigue, dry mouth, thirst and muscle cramps. If heat illness is not addressed in a timely manner it can lead to more serious conditions such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
So, what’s the take home message?
Come prepared to “play” and take steps to deter dehydration and heat illness.
- Check the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow.
- Drink plenty of fluids (water, juice, coconut water, electrolyte drink) throughout the day.
- If you sweat a lot and are prone to muscle cramping, add some extra salt to your food (either during your meals or by adding salt/GatorLytes to your sports drink in training before competition.)
- Don’t forget to drink fluid regularly during your warm-up and drink 1 cup of sports drink/water 10 minutes prior to starting practice or competition.
- Fluid consumption should include a sport drink and water.
- Drink throughout practice and competition about 1-1.5 liters or 20-24 oz. per hour.
- Avoid carbonated drinks; they can make you feel full and uncomfortable.
- Move out of the sun into the shade when possible.
- If playing in the heat, cool down with ice bags or X-temp vest under armpits and on your lap/between your legs for quickest results.
- Change into dry clothes when possible.
- Begin re-hydrating right away.
- Drink 20-24 oz. of fluid per 1 pound of weight loss to make up for fluid that is lost during play. This is equal to replacing 1.3-1.5 liters of fluid for every 1 kg of weight lost.
- Sweat a lot or prone to muscle cramping? Adding salt to your food or salt/GatorLytes to a sport drink (1/8-1/4 tsp. per 20 oz.) can be effective for an athlete who needs to aggressively replace fluid and sodium.
- Shower and get out of wet clothes as soon as possible.
- Cool down and stretch.
Don’t let dehydration or heat illness affect your performance or your health – be proactive today!
Thank you to Michael F. Bergeron, Ph.D., FACSM, Executive Director, Sanford Sports Science Institute and National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute for providing us with the resources for this blog.
Don’t let dehydration, heat illness or any other factors negatively affect your performance. Develop a plan, determine what works best for you, and implement it methodically. Need help? Seek advisement with our athletic performance and recovery specialists, and let us guide you with the most effective practices. We offer a wellness-focused & supportive environment that can help you achieve your goals. Be sure to check our social media and blog updates for regular wellness inspiration, information, offers and support.
The Back 2 Normal blog is an educational resource written by Back 2 Normal employees and professional associates. Back 2 Normal bloggers are professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.