How to Prevent Dehydration in Athletes

How to Prevent Dehydration in Athletes

Dehydration is defined as a net loss greater than two percent of body weight. Dehydration increases physiological stress and the perception of a person as to the effort required to carry out an exercise. As the body is dehydrated, blood volume and reduce sweat production, and body temperature increases. To prevent overheating, your body must work harder to send blood to the skin and dissipate heat build-up and produce sweat. The result is less fluid in the bloodstream to carry oxygen-rich blood to the working muscles, lungs and other organs.Athletes deal with this problem all the time.


Dehydration can negatively affect the performance of aerobic exercise, especially in hot climates and can reduce mental / cognitive ability. The magnitude of the performance decline in the year is related to heat stress, exercise and individual biological characteristics of the person.

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Dehydration is a risk factor for both heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Dehydration and lack in sodium are associated with skeletal muscle cramps. Dehydration is classified as mild, moderate or severe based on the volume of body fluid lost or not replenished. When severe, dehydration is an emergency situation with risk of death.The first signs of dehydration can not be specific, usually involving fatigue, headache and confusion. Oral rehydration is usually enough. But medical help should be sought quickly if there is any concern for someone who needs a more aggressive supplementation of liquid. Learn how to check hydration status prior to exercise.



Although rare, hyper-hydration may occur during long periods of exercise when electrolytes lost through sweat are not replaced, but excessive amounts of water are consumed. The hyper-hydration may lead to potentially dangerous electrolyte imbalances, including hyponatremia, a serious condition in which the level of sodium in the blood becomes too low. Hyponatremia can be a problem for athletes who experience an excessive loss through transpiration sodium as part of prolonged exercise or heat exposure, such as running a marathon. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported this condition in climbers who used melted snow to prepare their drinks without the necessary ions or electrolytes

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Preventing dehydration and over-hydration in athletes


The sweat contains electrolytes and water. Both should be replaced to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that can negatively affect exercise performance and health. During prolonged exercise or heat exposure, which results in sodium loss through transpiration, it is important to consume sodium and other electrolytes with fluids, to prevent hyponatremia, a serious condition in which the level of sodium in the blood becomes too low.

Hydration needs can vary considerably between people and the same person under different environmental conditions and in different physical activities. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has developed fluid replacement recommendations to help athletes to limit the risk of dehydration and hyper-hydration. Even under the same conditions, sweat rates and electrolyte loss in sweat differ among athletes. That is why it is important for athletes to monitor their own hydration status, including sweat rate.

The choice of drink can affect the hydration status. Sports drinks are specially formulated to provide fluids and carbohydrates and electrolytes, which are easily absorbed by the body to provide fuel for the muscles and help replenish the water and electrolytes lost in perspiration. In addition, studies show that athletes, including children, consume more fluids and stay better hydrated when the liquid is flavored. Research confirms that caffeine consumption does not significantly alter the urine output or hydration status. Alcohol can increase urine output and delay full rehydration.


Special Considerations

Some groups of athletes are more prone to dehydration and overhydration. Once dehydrated, the elderly may have less sensitivity to thirst, which can make them slower to voluntary rehydration. Older people also tend to have slower renal responses to water and sodium loads and are subject to greater risk of hyponatremia. Children have transpiration rates lower than those of adults, which can make them more vulnerable to hiperaquecimento. In general, women have transpiration rates lower than those of men, which puts athletes at a much higher risk of dehydration (hyponatremia associated with exercise).

Children involved in organized sports may be vulnerable to overheating. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hyponatremia is rare among athletes who practice less than four hours. The AAP says that sports drinks can serve a purpose for children who need encouragement to drink enough fluids to keep themselves hydrated and avoid hyponatremia and may be better than water for athletes who will be competing or practicing for over a hour.

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