The Importance of Keeping Hydrated in Sport

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3 pages /

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1169 words

Downloads: 96

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Keeping hydrated is one of the most essential aspects of sport and physical activity, whether you are an athlete or someone who does sport for fitness. It plays so many roles to keep your body functioning properly that without an adequate amount of water, your body just cannot perform at its peak.

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If you are doing exercise on dry land, for example playing ball sports, cycling or working out at the gym, you get hot and sweaty and so it is fairly obvious when you need to stop for a drink. When you’re exercising in the water however, it isn’t as clear cut. The usual signs that you need to hydrate are much more difficult to notice. Your body doesn’t feel like its sweating, the water helps to keep you cool and you don’t often get a dry mouth whilst swimming. This often makes you feel that you don’t need to rehydrate. As a swimmer, it’s important to keep on top of your hydration of your own accord by drinking plenty of water before and after, as well as during your training session.

Water makes up around 60 per cent of your body’s overall mass, so as you might imagine, it pretty much has a hand in everything that you do. It helps to regulate your body temperature; it provides lubrication for your joints, moves nutrients around your body, helps to remove waste, aids digestion – the list just goes on. So if you’ve not had enough water before, or during and after training, your performance is going to suffer.

Most obviously perhaps is the fact that the less water you have in the body, the greater the temperature, so the more dehydrated you will become. It becomes a vicious cycle of dehydration. It also increases your heart rate, making the general act of swimming feel much harder than it usually would. Whilst you might think you’ve done a heck of a workout because you’re tired and fatigued, in reality it’s very possible that your perception will just be skewed. This is not only detrimental to your physical improvement it can also have a negative mental effect too. If you’ve done the same workout twice in a week, but the second time you didn’t manage to finish it because you were dehydrated, it can often make you feel like you’re not progressing as you should. Being just two per cent dehydrated can have a notable effect on performance.

It’s not just your performance on the day which can suffer though. A major part of any workout is the recovery process and being dehydrated has a negative effect on this too.

First of all, water is used to aid digestion. The enzymes that break down food and dissolve minerals are found in your saliva, which is made up of water, and water is used to break down soluble fibre. The enzymes do not function as well as they should when they get to the stomach if the acidic solution (stomach acid) is thicker because of dehydration. This lowers the efficiency of the digestive process is going to be affected, and this in turn will slow down the recovery process.

Muscles are 75 per cent water and you need it to help digest the nutrients required to repair and rebuild the muscles that have been damaged during exercise. In a dehydrated state, protein synthesis used to rebuild the muscles is much slower, again delaying your recovery from your training.

A common effect of dehydration is fatigue. With less water in your body, the volume of blood in your body decreases, which means your heart must work much harder to get the blood pumped around your body to provide your muscles and organs with nutrients and oxygen. This also makes it harder for you to recover and can make you feel lethargic and lower your motivation for your next swimming session.

Everyone is different. Depending on how much exercise you do, how active you are in general, how much water you get from the food you eat, the amount you need to drink varies from person to person. However, it’s usually safe to assume that you should drink whenever you feel thirsty. NHS guidelines suggest that 1.2 litres is about right for your average person, which is around six to eight glasses a day. Usually, having a glass of water with every meal and topping up when you start to feel thirsty will meet this. If you’re going to be doing a heavy training session, then it is important to take along a bottle with around a litre of water in it. Drinking 250ml every 15 minutes or so should be plenty to maintain a good level of hydration.

If you’re not sure whether or not you are hydrated, the easiest way to gauge it during the day is to have a look at the colour of your urine when you go to the toilet. If it’s clear or a light yellow colour, you can be pretty certain that you’re well hydrated. If it’s more orange or darker than that, you are almost certainly dehydrated.

You don’t have to only drink water, but it is definitely the best way to keep your body hydrated. If you drink a lot of tea, coffee, soft drinks or alcohol, these are not going to hydrate you as well as you might think. Even your sports drinks which are marketed at improving recovery are not always as helpful as they may seem.

Tea, coffee and some soft drinks contain caffeine, which is a diuretic. This means that it makes your body expel water through encouraging the production of urine. If you are producing more urine, then there is going to be less water in the body, and so you’re going to need to drink more water. Fizzy drinks, especially diet drinks, are even more harmful. They require increased levels of the body’s water to neutralise the phosphoric acid that many drinks contain, and they also use up alkalizing minerals to remove the harmful residues that are left behind by the drink.

Sports drinks can be a good way to revitalise your body after you’ve done a hard workout. Many of them contain minerals and help to replenish electrolytes, but they are most useful after a workout. Many of the drinks you find on the shelves of fridges in shops are filled with high levels of sugar and sweeteners, and these this can clog up your system. This slows down your ability to absorb fluids, which is likely to make you feel dehydrated during your workout. To get the perfect balance for your recovery drink, it is better to mix your own using powder and water.

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A nifty trick for creating your own recovery drink is to make a bottle of weak squash and drop in a pinch of salt. This helps to maintain carbohydrate levels, as well as the level of sodium needed for proper rehydration and recovery.

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The Importance of Keeping Hydrated in Sport. (2019, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 1, 2023, from
“The Importance of Keeping Hydrated in Sport.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2019,
The Importance of Keeping Hydrated in Sport. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Oct. 2023].
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