Many people do not think of water as a nutrient, possibly because of the wrong notion that there is no energy provided by water. Nevertheless, water is the most vital nutrient that we consume. Besides being a medium for cellular processes that occur in the body, water is the main component of blood, which is responsible for transporting nutrients and oxygen to tissues of the body. Water is also important for dissipating heat through evaporation from the skin. In addition to the role of water in survival, athletic performance can be compromised by only slight changes in hydration status.
Whether you are a serious athlete or simply exercise to maintain fitness, it is very important to stay hydrated. Good hydration means getting the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise. Despite the commonly known importance of water in our bodies, many athletes do not seriously consider the effects of hydration during and after athletic performance. Water maintains blood volume, regulates body temperature and is involved in muscle contractions. Dehydration may cause a reduction in blood volume, decreased skin blood flow, decreased sweat rate, decreased heat dissipation, increased core temperature and an increased rate of glycogen use.
There are many benefits of staying hydrated; some of them are listed below:
Improved muscle function: Hydrated muscles function better than dehydrated muscles.
Regulated blood pressure: Staying hydrated helps maintain blood pressure during exercise so your heart doesn’t work harder to maintain normal blood pressure.
Improved circulation: Staying hydrated also improves blood flow and circulation and thus the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to working muscles. Good hydration also helps remove metabolic by-products and waste from muscles, while replacing the water that is lost through sweat.
The American Council on Exercise has suggested the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:
- Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising.
- Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up.
- Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
- Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.