Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why Poor Hydration Results in Poor Performance

We partnered with Ruck Science to bring you a series of articles about athlete performance. Today's is about hydration.

If you want to know one of  the biggest tricks in preventing poor athletic performance, the answer is hydration. It’s important for your rugby team to stay on top of re-hydrating throughout a game, and even during training. Poor hydration means poor performance. Research has shown that athletes do not perform their best if they are poorly hydrated.(1) Staying on top of fluid intake may give rugby players the upper hand in winning a game, or performing their absolute best during training. The reason behind proper hydration is simply that the human body does not function optimally with inadequate fluid intake, and all body processes will suffer. Not only does poor hydration pose a risk to the health, and function of body organs, but it also stalls performance. A dehydrated rugby team will always underperform and suffer more team loses than wins.

Poor hydration causes a decrease in performance for a number of reasons.  Not only does dehydration raise core body temperature, but it’s also responsible for reducing total blood volume, decreasing the amount of blood flow to the skin, reducing sweat rate, while also increasing the amount of glycogen used by the muscles. This leads to glycogen depletion much faster than if a rugby player was adequately hydrated.

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In response to the increase in body temperature a rugby player will experience during periods of strenuous activity, and during rugby matches in brutally hot conditions,  the human body will work in various ways, in order  to adapt. However the only way adaptation to such events can occur is by properly hydrating. If rugby players are ignoring the importance of re-hydrating during game day, and training, their body processes will shut down, and fatigue will set in.  If  you think about it, a rugby player's body is under a high amount of stress, and always having to adapt. Between various temperatures, different game times, as well as different playing locations, the body has to be able to appropriately respond to all different conditions at play. The adaptation process occurs through sweat, in response to increased core body temperature. However  as the body releases sweat, not only is the  body losing a tremendous amount of electrolytes, but the body suffers an overall loss of fluid. If constant sweat continuous without re-hydrating, the perspiration will decrease in an effort to hold on to what is left. The body responds as if you were in a drought.This alters the body's fluid and electrolyte balance which poses a major risk for dehydration, and overheating. Not only is this detrimental to the health of a rugby player, but it will also lead to poor athletic performance on the field. When you alter your fluid, and electrolyte balance, the body is not going to be able to adapt to all the different conditions at play, and your performance will suffer.

When rugby players are consistently losing fluid during long training sessions, or game day, dehydration kicks in rapidly, and comes on without much warning. By the time the rugby player’s brain signals thirst they are already 1-2% dehydrated. (2) If they ignore the signal to hydrate for long enough, full dehydration can set in. Even small percentages of fluid loss compromises physiologic function. The body begins to feel fatigued, the heart rate goes up 3-5 beats per minute, inspiration, and expirations increase, and the body temperature rises leading to total body exhaustion. The musculoskeletal system is also affected by fluid loss. Muscle temperature and lactate levels increase, which reduces muscle strength and lowers athletic performance. The trick to preventing dehydration is to stay ahead of the game. Take frequent water breaks, and drink before you get thirsty. Adequately hydrating yourself  will prevent dehydration and underperformance.

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