Let’s start with an easy question. Is hydration important?
You won’t find many people that disagree. I’m sure if you polled a hundred athletes, you would get consensus – of course it is. Everybody knows that it is. Yet, hydration is one of those things that everybody knows but nobody pays attention to or prioritizes. Hydration isn’t one of those complicated processes to add to your lifestyle. It’s easy, it’s simple, and when done properly, doesn’t make you feel any different. Maybe it’s not prioritized because it’s so simple that people take it for granted. If you asked those same athletes you polled, how much water they drank or what their hydration strategy is, you’d probably be hard pressed to get a satisfying answer. It’s time for a wake up call.
You may have heard the stat that 2% dehydration is enough to impair performance in sport. Yet I want to take a different angle here instead and point out some of the more basic components of hydration. To illuminate another real importance of hydration, I’m going to give you some information from Dr. Mark Lindsay, an absolute genius of the human body and author of the textbook, FASCIA: Clinical Applications for Health and Human Performance . For most, this would be a fairly difficult read, but I highly suggest looking through it, there’s so much information that each person will probably take something different. If you’re a health professional, I would strongly suggest purchasing it for your library. According to Dr. Lindsay, here are some of the amazing things that water is responsible for in the body/fascial system (I will be paraphrasing a little bit so it doesn’t get too long, feel free to read the text for more detail):
- Water is a transport system. Water transports nutrients throughout the body’s cells as well as transporting waste products out of cells/the body.
- Water acts as a lubricant for many processes. It protects the body from shock, transports food through the digestive tract and facilitates the smooth movement of bone joints.
- Water participates in chemical reactions in the body. For example, the breakdown of carbs and protein into useable forms depends on water as an ingredient.
- Water helps regulate body temperature. Without water, our temperature would fluctuate much more extremely. (Think of continental vs coastal climates, water stays more level)
- Water is crucial for collagen structure and stability. Collagen is a major component of connective tissue in the body.
Many people try to simplify the way that dehydration affects performance. The truth is, dehydration has a HUGE number of implications just in terms of the fascial system. The ways in which the mechanical properties of fascia and collagen are affected are numerous. Dehydration can affect fascia’s ability to slide over other surfaces, a major component and characteristic of fascia. During dehydration, the collagen matrix will become harder and tighter and thus will diminish mobility and tensile strength. On top of the mechanical properties, fascia is embedded with nerves, which are responsible for transporting different signals and information back and forth to the spinal cord. While dehydrated, the communication lines can become affected, slowing down some of these ‘messages’ or making them unclear. If you haven’t figured it out yet, don’t become dehydrated!! A word of caution, during rehydration, the expansion of fibres of ground substance results in a weakened state as well, so even while rehydrating, performance will be decreased until full rehydration is established. I know hydrating isn’t getting you pumped or swole or even fast but ignoring your hydration can ruin your best gains and slow down further progress. Take it from me (through the words of Dr. Mark Lindsay) and start making hydration a priority!!
UPDATE: LOW CARB CONSIDERATIONS
If you read the guide on How To Start Burning Fat or Fasting , you’re most likely following a low carb diet. One of the first things that happens when you decrease carb intake, is you stop holding onto water and sodium in your cells. Not only does this add to a few pounds of the early weight loss, but it affects your hydration and mineral balance. To counter act this, you will have to focus on not only hydrating with water, but ensuring regular intake of minerals such as sodium, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Many fat adapted endurance athletes suggest drinking broth before training or adding a cup every few days for mineral support (Also suggested in Art and Science of Low Carb Performance
). If you’re fat adapted, you can ignore sodium guidelines for the most part because you’ll be more at risk for low sodium than high sodium.
It’s About Getting Better!