How staying hydrated this Summer can help prevent injuries
Hydrating is not an optional extra for human beings, it is necessary for survival. That’s what happens when 50-60% of our body mass is water. If you are an active human being who spends time in the gym or running, your need for staying hydrated is multiplied. The summer running and sports season is rapidly approaching, which means the number of heat and dehydration related injuries and sickness is about to explode on Sydney’s North Shore. Don’t let it happen to you.
Ensuring you are properly hydrated helps your body:
- regulate body temperature
- improve circulation
- reduce high blood pressure
- control cholesterol levels
- improve brain function
- supply nutrients and oxygen to your cells
- flush the kidneys, bladder, and gut of toxins and bacteria
- properly digest and absorb nutrients
- aid weight management and can contribute to weight loss
Common symptoms of dehydration
The first symptom of dehydration is thirst. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Most people aren’t aware that dehydration can affect many areas of the body, including the musculoskeletal system. That is one of the reasons it is so important to ensure you are adequately hydrate; as letting dehydration continue can lead to a range of complications from your muscles to the function of your vital organs. The most common symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dryness of the lips, mouth, or tongue
- Reduced energy or apathy
- Urine changes: Infrequent urination, a small volume of urine, or dark urine
- A sudden decline in mood, strength, coordination, or the ability to make decisions
Can dehydration effect athletic performance?
Not only does dehydration have a physical effect on the body’s functions, many athletes and amateur sportspeople have felt the performance effects of dehydration as well. If keeping your body’s water levels and functions at their optimal condition weren’t enough reasons to stay hydrated, keeping your performance at tip top levels might be. Some of the signs and symptoms of performance issues due to dehydration during and after exercise include:
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of strength and power
- Slow Reaction times
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Poor performance in back to back training or competition
3 odd signs you may be dehydrated
Dehydration can also present itself in a range of other symptoms that you wouldn’t normally associate with. Beyond the usual headaches and dryness of the lips and mouth, dehydration has been known to surprise people by manifesting in the following ways:
- You have bad breath
The saliva in your mouth has many jobs, one of them is to be antibacterial. When you are dehydrated your body cannot produce enough saliva which can cause a bacterial overgrowth in the mouth that causes bad breath.
- You have dry or flushed skin
Far from being very sweaty, dehydration can actually cause the skin to become very dry and flushed. It is also common for dehydration, depending on its stage, to cause the skin when pinched to remain “tented” before returning back to normal after a few minutes.
- You have food cravings, particularly sweets
Now, you might have raised an eyebrow or two on this one. Obviously not ALL cravings for sweet or salty foods can be blamed on dehydration, but it is a legitimate concern. During phases of dehydration, the liver (which uses water to released glycogen) may not be breaking down glycogen stores effectively, causing you to crave a salty or sweet snack.
How dehydration affects the musculoskeletal system
Dehydration has been shown to effect all parts of the body – particularly the spine, intervertebral joints, their disc structure and the onset of delayed muscle soreness (DOMS). Skeletal muscle microdamage has been shown to be exacerbated in hyperthermic participants who have been dehydrated by exercise in a hot ambient environment.
Tips for preventing dehydration
What exactly does being well hydrated mean, considering the amount of water a person needs depends on biological needs, climatic conditions, clothing worn and exercise intensity and duration?
Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean you need to drink more water while some medications can also act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid. If you want to know exactly how much fluid you need, sports specialist physiotherapists recommend weighing yourself before and after exercise, to see how much you’ve lost through perspiration.
The best drink for avoiding dehydration is water. Water is a sugar-free, calorie-free nutrient and is optimal for good health.
Sports drinks can also be useful if you’ve lost a lot of fluid and salt quickly (long distance running or playing sports for long periods in high heat and humidity). Remember though that electrolyte sports drinks contain large amounts of sugar and sodium with pure water being the healthier choice for day to day drinking.
Coconut water is another option, rich in electrolytes and less sugary than sports drinks, but it does contain calories.
If you experience any of the above, or other painful or noticeable symptoms, take immediate action to cool your body:
- Stop exercising.
- Get out of the heat.
- Stretch gently (if you have cramping).
- Replace your fluids right away with an electrolyte drink or water.
- Loosen your clothing if possible.
- Apply cool packs or wet towels to lower your body temperature.
Whether you’re a pro athlete, amateur, student athlete, a runner, or have a history of injury, give Lane Cove Physio a call. Our sports specialists can assess your physical condition, talk to you about sports treatment and prevention options, and help you stay active safely.
 Rothenberg JA, Panagos A. Musculoskeletal performance and hydration status. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008;1(2):131–136. doi:10.1007/s12178-008-9020-9
 Cleary MA, Sweeney LA, Kendrick ZV, Sitler MR. Dehydration and symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness in hyperthermic males. J Athl Train. 2005;40(4):288–297.