Nov 18, 2016
Drink Up to Work Out

It’s no secret that hydration plays a major role in athletics. Without enough water in their systems, athletes are more prone to injuries and less likely to compete at their highest level. But did you know that hydration can also affect performance in the weightroom? The research backs this up.

For instance, a study carried out at Old Dominion University confirms that athletes who are even slightly dehydrated are unable to lift as much weight as those who are fully hydrated. To determine this, researchers had a group of healthy men do a one repetition maximum bench press both when they were hydrated and when they were mildly dehydrated. (A one-rep max is a standard measure of how much weight a person can lift a single time while using proper form, often used as a rough indicator of total strength.) One-rep max scores dropped by nearly 10 percent when the men were dehydrated, indicating that muscle function is directly related to fluid volume.

Other studies have gathered similar findings. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that participants who were mildly dehydrated could not perform as many squat repetitions as those who were fully hydrated. Another study from Chicago State University showed that dehydration can reduce an athlete’s power performance by 20 percent, impacting activities like plyometrics and kettlebell swings.

On her website, Cathe Friedrich, a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, explains why water consumption plays such a major role in not only strength training, but in everything we do:

“As you lose fluid through sweating, the volume of your blood drops. To compensate for less blood and oxygen being pumped to your body with each beat, your heart rate goes up to compensate. So, your heart is working harder,” she writes.

“Your core body temperature also rises as you become more and more dehydrated,” she continues. “This places additional strain on your heart and on your entire body. Remember, your brain is largely composed of water too. Exercise feels more difficult and becomes harder to sustain, so your performance goes down. If you continue to lose water, you run the risk of more serious health consequences such as cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.”

Friedrich’s tips for staying hydrated every time athletes work out are:

  • Drink 18 to 20 ounces of water three to four hours before a workout.
  • Drink another six to eight ounces of fluid just before a workout.
  • Drink 15 ounces of water every 30 to 40 minutes during a workout.
  • Monitor fluid status after a workout.

Athletes can gauge their hydration level following a training session by checking the color of their urine, Friedrich says. When they are properly hydrated, their urine should not be darker than a pale yellow. A darker color means the athlete needs to take in more fluids. Friedrich also suggests athletes weigh themselves before and after training. Drinking 16 to 20 ounces of fluid for every pound they lose should keep them properly hydrated.

Based on these studies, all athletes need to be drinking enough water if they are going to maximize their output in the weightroom. Muscles are extremely dependent on water in order to function properly and reach peak performance. Drinking enough fluid before, during, and after strength training can make a major difference.

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