Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all athletes.” He actually said nature instead of athletes, but the shoe fits.
Athletic Trainer Liz Cruze shared the importance of hydration in athletics.
“Drinking water is important, and it is not only important during activity but before and during as well. You have to make sure you are properly hydrated, and being properly hydrated takes hours to ensure. If you go into practice and just chug a glass of water right before, that is not being hydrated well before activity,” Mrs. Cruze said.
Human beings are 60% water, so it is important to remain hydrated in order to maintain proper function of every aspect of the human body– skin, muscles, and even bones rely on a high rate of hydration in order to function, let alone thrive. Due to extreme use of muscles and joints as well as loss of water weight from sweat, it is even more crucial for athletes to stay hydrated.
“If you aren’t properly hydrated you can get headaches, it can cause dizziness, you could pass out. There is some evidence that failure of being hydrated can cause cramping issues and lack of performance and not practicing as well because your body doesn’t have what it needs to do its job,” Mrs. Cruze said.
Nurse Mr. Josh Harmon added to the bodily processes in which hydration is essential.
“Your micro and macronutrients are transported through fluid that is predominantly water,” Harmon said.
Athletes have learned the importance of hydration.
“At football practice, we get frequent water breaks because our coaches understand how important staying hydrated and drinking water is. It gets really hot at practice and we already sweat a lot, so we are constantly losing water and needing to replenish our bodies so we can practice well,” junior Joe Bassler, football player said.
Hydration does not only include drinking water. Replacing electrolytes such as potassium and sodium are also essential to an athlete’s body function. Sports drinks like Gatorade are utilized to prepare an athlete’s body for extreme loss of water and electrolytes.
“Potassium and sodium are the two electrolytes that are most important because they are what actually cause your muscle to contract. If an athlete doesn’t have enough sodium and potassium, the muscles physically cannot contract and do what they need to do on a microcellular level at practice or in a game,” Mrs. Cruze said.
Cramping is a common issue among athletes, so athletes are educated and acknowledge the steps to take in order to prevent cramping, especially during a game.
“Trainer Liz almost always has Gatorade for us to drink before games to make sure we are ready to perform and not worry about cramping. It’s terrible when we get cramps during a game because it causes a hassle trying to recover quickly,” Bassler said.
Cruze stressed that drinking enough water throughout the day and maintaining a balanced diet should be enough to maintain electrolytes, but some cases are extreme.
“I had an athlete one time that had extreme cramping issues, and we had to have pickle juice because it’s high in sodium, we had to have Gatorade, electrolyte tablets, bananas for potassium, it was a whole show we had to do to prevent this person from cramping while they were playing, but it worked, and sometimes it is just more difficult to stay properly hydrated for muscle function in each individual,” Mrs. Cruze said.
It seems counterproductive to stress sodium and potassium when those are universally known to dehydrate people, but Mrs. Cruze explained it is all about balance.
“It’s why you have to have that balance. You need that sodium and potassium to get your muscles to fire and work properly, but if that is all you are taking in and not consuming water, you can get dehydrated,” Mrs. Cruze said.
Dehydration in athletes can take a toll on performance and comfortability.
“If someone, especially an athlete, is dehydrated, they can get lactic acid build up and become more tired and fatigued during and after workouts,” Harmon said. “In severe cases, you would start to get a dry mouth, decreased urine production and headaches.”