The Importance Of Maintaining Hydration

What do you think about when considering the symptoms of dehydration? You think about thirst, right? Well think again, because if you wait until you’re thirsty, you might already be 1 to 2 percent dehydrated. For performance athletes, hydration is essential for optimal performance. So what should you look for in a thirst quencher? Let’s find out.

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Mild Dehydration Often Goes Undetected

 

According to the University of Connecticut Human Performance Laboratory, mild dehydration is defined as when you lose approximately 1-2 percent of your normal water volume. A little known fact, however, is that at this point you might not feel any sensation of thirst. With mild dehydration people can experience mood changes, decreased energy levels, and even altered levels of thinking.

 

As one might imagine, athletic performance can decline even with mild dehydration. The Univ. of Connecticut study showed increased levels of fatigue, tension, and anxiety with mild dehydration. If you want to compete at your best level, then remember, a 1 to 2 percent dehydration level is easily avoidable but sometimes overlooked.

 

Keep The Tank Full

 

Professional athletes know that they must have adequate fluid intake, regardless of thirst level. That’s why they take gulps of liquid frequently during exertion.

 

New York City- based sports science and medicine expert Lewis G. Maharam, MD, recommends 8 ounces of sports drink or water every 20 minutes. The key is to avoid excess thermogenesis, which is the production of body heat. To combat overheating, the body sweats, and the sweat evaporating from your skin lowers your body temperature. This loss of fluids requires constant replacement.

 

Amanda Carlson-Phillips recommends consuming 0.5 to 1 ounce of H2O per pound of body weight every day. Carlson-Phillips is the vice president of nutrition and research for Athletes' Performance in Phoenix, Arizona, and she regularly consults with Olympic contenders and pros.

 

What About Sodium?

 

In the old days, sports coaches used to give their athletes “salt pills” to help them recover the sodium lost in sweat. The reality is that the average western diet contains much more salt than we need. Most athletes don’t require sports drinks loaded with sodium or salt supplements. The only exception might be ultra-long distance races, such as multi-hour long competitions, and even then the salt intake should be modest.

 

According to a Saint Louis University study, increased sodium intake did not correlate in any way with improved athletic performance among endurance athletes.

 

Pre-Workout Hydration

Besides staying hydrated while exercising, it’s also important to be well-hydrated before exercise. If you start a workout even mildly dehydrated, it might be difficult to re-hydrate while your body’s fluid needs ramp up due to exertion. A good rule of thumb is to consume at least 8 ounces of sports drink prior to any workout. If you are thirsty before working out, drink until thirst subsides, then add an additional 8 ounces of your favorite thirst quencher to top off your body fluid stores.

 

What About Magnesium?

Research shows that strenuous exercise can lead to a relative magnesium deficiency which can negatively impact athletic performance. Magnesium requirements in athletes might be increased as much as 20 percent. And electrolyte imbalance can hamper your efforts as much as fluid deficiency.

 

Magnesium is involved in many critical body functions that affect muscle performance including oxygen uptake, energy production and performance electrolyte balance. Magnesium is required for over 300 chemical reactions that keep our bodies working properly, such as muscle contraction, nervous system function, heart and blood pressure modulation, hormone activity, immune function, and protein synthesis.

 

Magnesium also plays a central role in energy metabolism by activating the enzyme ATPase, which is needed to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the body’s way to store and use energy. Sports drinks, in liquid or powder formulations, can provide the right amount of magnesium to keep your energy at peak levels.

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Recovery Hydration

 

As soon as your workout is finished, your body begins to recover. Sports hydration plays an important role here as well, as the body requires the right fluid balance to repair itself quickly. Also, performance electrolytes like magnesium play a role in protein synthesis which is critical for muscle recovery and repair. With the right fluid and electrolyte balance, recovery times are faster, and you have more energy reserves for your next workout.

 

Here’s a quick method you can try when you are thirsty post-workout: drink until the sensation of thirst subsides. Then take in another 8 ounces of a low calorie thirst quencher. Monitor how you feel over the next few hours after training, and if thirst appears again make sure to repeat the rehydration process.

 

There are more advanced methods of determining fluid loss during exercise, and it’s recommended that athletes replace 125-150% of their estimated fluid loss during the 4-6 hour post exercise period.

 

Conclusion

Smart sports hydration is essential for superior athletic performance. The avoidance of even mild dehydration can make a big difference. The importance of pre- and post-exercise hydration are just as important as staying well hydrated during exercise. Maintaining your body’s water and performance electrolyte stores help you to train harder and recover faster.

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