The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University, 2017) defines hydration as: the process of causing something to absorb water. According to Bob Murray (2005), minimizing dehydration is a simple, yet effective way to take precautions and improve performance. Furthermore, Sawka Shirreffs (2009) elaborates on the common question of whether sports drinks or water is the best hydrator.
Giles Warrington (2017) states that water is important for regulating bodily functions and maintaining one’s health. Warrington (2017) further explains that good hydration is vital to maintain normal physiological functioning, as well as optimize performance. In the same way, Murray (2005) found that one’s hydration status is a large determinant of the athlete’s physiological ability to train, compete and thus recover. Murray (2005) furthermore states that it is important that the physiological mechanisms of the human body are understood, in order for improved performance to occur.
According to Warrington (2017) dehydration is “a condition in which the body contains an insufficient volume of water to meet its various needs.” Furthermore, Joseph Mercola (2017) states that one’s body needs plenty of water during prolonged periods of exercise, in order to replenish electrolytes and important minerals lost due to the body sweating. Murray (2005) found that as dehydration becomes greater in the body, so does the negative impact on performance. Murray (2005) furthermore explains that no other nutritional substance can compare to the effects that good hydration has on performance.
Warrington (2017) states that the symptoms of dehydration or thermal stress include: cramps, dizziness, rapid pulse and respiration, fatigue etc. Murray (2005) reported that even slight dehydration can result in a higher exercise heart rate, a lower blood flow to the skin, a higher plasma osmolality etc. Mercola (2017) concludes that lack of adequate hydration will most definitely affect performance and diminish the effectiveness of exercises.
Warrington (2017) found that the body’s main way to regulate temperature during exercise is through the evaporation of sweat.
Warrington (2017) further explains that sweating results in a significant loss of body water, which needs to be replaced in order to avoid problems with physiological functions. According to Murray (2005), even the most well-educated, well-intentioned athletes underestimate their sweat loss. Shirreffs (2009) furthermore emphasises the importance of replacing electrolytes and carbohydrates that are lost during exercise. Murray (2005) found that fluid replacement should replace 100% of the sweat lost during exercise.
Murray (2005) states that the two physiological factors that stimulate thirst are a rise in sodium concentrations and a lowering in blood volume. According to Murray (2005), the thirst mechanism in the brain is stimulated by the osmotic effects of electrolytes and fluids in the body. It is found that dehydration can occur in highly fit athletes as “the human thirst mechanism is an inaccurate short-term indicator of fluid needs.” Furthermore Murray (2005) states that there is not a clear physiological signal that dehydration is occurring and therefore athletes become oblivious to the subtle effects of dehydration.
According to Mercola (2017), once the body has lost 1 to 2% of the total water content, signals for its needs will come to surface via thirst. Furthermore, Mercola (2017) states that one’s thirst is an accurate guide to ensure individual needs are met. In contrast, Warrington (2017) states that thirst is an unreliable indicator of hydration, as one is already experiencing the early stages of dehydration when thirst is experienced.
According to Murray (2005), fluid and electrolyte balance, cardiovascular function and regulating the body’s temperature are intimately linked factors that contribute to one’s health and performance. Warrington (2017) states that four hours prior to exercising, one must consume an adequate amount of fluids, based on body weight, as well as consume sodium or a salty snack in order to maintain one’s thirst and retain fluids consumed. Furthermore, Warrington (2017) states that on many occasions it is not possible to maintain fluid balance, yet a way to ensure optimum hydration is to consume fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. In conclusion, Warrington (2017) states that almost every exercise session is completed with some degree of dehydration. Therefore consuming fluids, after exercise, containing small amounts of sodium is important in retaining water that is essential to our bodies.
Shirreffs (2009) states that carbohydrate depletion, a rise in body temperature and reductions in fluid circulation may cause fatigue in an exercise lasting longer than 30-40 minutes. According to Murray (2005), when large amounts of fluids are consumed in order to sustain hydration, the amount of carbohydrates should be kept low. Shirreffs (2009) found that a high carbohydrate concentration will reduce the amount of fluid available for absorption, as well as increase the likelihood of dehydration due to water being secreted into the intestine.
Sherriffs’ (2009) research has identified that the only necessary electrolyte that may need to be added to a drink is sodium, as it will help maintain fluid volume as well as create a drive to continually drink sports drinks. In the same way, Murray’s (2005) statement states that having a formulated drink that contains electrolytes will maintain a healthy drive for drinking sports drinks.
According to Warrington, (2017) physical activity can result in a large amount of sweat being produced. Furthermore, if water losses are not adequately replaced, dehydration and impaired physiological function can occur which will ultimately impact athletic performance and create stress on the body. Warrington (2017) further states that good hydration should always be practised, yet what is the best hydrator between water and sports drinks?
Shirreffs (2009) states that a properly formulated sports drink is valuable in the lives of athletes, however other research done by Mercola (2017) states that sports drinks are toxic and should be avoided. Murray (2005) states that sports drinks are highly effective in preventing dehydration as they stimulate fast absorption within the body, they help with rapid rehydration and they improve performance, yet in contrast, Mercola (2017) states that water should always be a person’s first choice in choosing a hydrating beverage.
Murray (2005) found that sports drinks stimulate drinking due to the balance of palatability and function. It is further stated that sports drinks must taste best when athletes are thirsty, as well as contain the correct electrolyte balance. In contrast, Mercola (2017) explains how sports drinks contain unhealthy ingredients such as artificial colours and flavours, as well as high fructose corn syrup, which damage one’s health.
Shirreffs (2009) states that any exercise lasting longer than 30-40 minutes requires a drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes, such as a sports drink that can assist in optimum ingestion of fluids and important elements. Furthermore it is stated that water is “not an optimum fluid for ingestion during exercise.” Yet, according to Mercola (2017), the sugar in sports drinks is unbeneficial as water is cheap and a readily available hydrator.
In conclusion, Shirreffs (2009) states that drinking plain water is better than drinking nothing, yet drinking a formulated carbohydrate and electrolyte filled sports drink is the best hydrator and performance enhancer. Murray (2005) further states that plain water is a good thirst quencher, yet a poor hydrator due to “water shutting off thirst before an athlete can properly hydrate,” as the osmotic drive to drink is reduced. In addition, Murray (2005) states that water is a poor hydrator as opposed to a specially formulated sports drink that helps maintain the drive to drink. In contrast, Mercola (2017) states that drinking sufficient amounts of water is vital for one’s health and hydration and furthermore it is advised to avoid sugar filled sports drinks as they are unhealthy and unimportant if one has water, as water is able to hydrate, replenish and satisfy thirst needs.