This is an overview about how our bodies work, why hydration is critical to achieve peak athletic performance, and what you can do to stay hydrated. Since this is a complicated subject, we will use future posts in this series to dive into more detail.
As endurance athletes, we need to produce power for extended periods of time, and we naturally think about power coming from our muscles. This is true, of course. But what do our muscles need in order to produce power? They need oxygen, sugar, citrate, and a number of other things that they get from circulating blood. To get to the punch-line of a complicated discussion, if we can increase our blood circulation, we can produce more power.
Which is where hydration comes in. When we are properly hydrated, our circulation is optimized and we’re power-producing machines. But when we’re dehydrated, our blood “thickens”, resulting in decreased circulation, and, in turn, reduced power. Pretty straight-forward, right? Let’s break it down and then get into more detail.
Hydration = power for 3 basic reasons:
- Circulating blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to your muscles (required for aerobic metabolism);
- Circulating blood is critical for thermoregulation (the process that allows your body to maintain its internal temperature);
- Hydration is critical for optimal circulation.
We need circulation to produce power and to maintain our core temp. Hydration is required to maintain circulation. Make sense? Good. Let’s proceed.
- Circulating blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to your muscles
This doesn’t require a lot of explanation. Blood brings our muscles what they need to contract. Contracting muscles produce power. Therefore, when circulating blood to the muscles is reduced, power production from aerobic metabolism drops.
As an athlete looking for an edge, you’re probably asking, “What can I do to improve circulation?”
Great question… hold that thought, and we’ll get back to it shortly.
- Circulating blood is critical for thermoregulation (the process that allows your body to maintain its internal temperature)
We all know that during exercise, working muscles produce heat, and your body temperature rises. When your body temperature gets above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, your body systems become compromised—resulting in a precipitous drop in power and performance. More importantly, your body must keep its core temperature under 107.6°F (42 °C), or you can suffer brain damage or even death.
So how does our body thermoregulate?
When your internal temperature rises, sensors in your central nervous system send messages to your hypothalamus (a region of the forebrain that coordinates fundamental systems like thirst, hunger, body temperature and other basic body functions). In response, the hypothalamus sends signals to various organs and systems in your body, which respond with a variety of mechanisms, including:
- Perspiration: Your sweat glands (eccrine glands) release sweat, which cools your skin as it evaporates.
- Vasodilatation: The blood vessels under your skin get wider. This increases blood flow to your skin (now cooler, thanks to evaporative cooling effect of sweat)—away from your warm inner body. This lets your body release heat through heat radiation.
Ok, let’s recap. Our muscles need circulating blood to produce power. Working muscles produce heat. Our bodies keep our core temp in a safe range by shifting blood to the skin (away from muscles), and cooling the surface of the skin by sweating. We’ll proceed in a moment, but for now, let’s make one thing clear:
When we’re exercising, there’s a fierce competition for blood—we need it at our skin for thermoregulation (to stay alive), and we need it at our muscles (to achieve optimal athletic performance).
- Hydration is critical for optimal circulation
So here we are, working out, producing heat, and sweating. That sweat comes from our blood plasma, the “watery part” of our blood (by way of eccrine sweat glands). Unless we replace this lost blood plasma (through re-hydrating), our blood “thickens”. When our blood thickens, our heart stroke volume (SV) decreases. Stroke volume is the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat. Reduced heart stroke volume obviously reduces circulation at a given heart rate.
Stop the presses! What this means is that circulating blood—the key to both thermoregulation and power production—is compromised right when we need it the most UNLESS we can adequately rehydrate to replace body water that we lose (primarily) through perspiration.
This is why hydration is so critical. When we replace body water, our circulation is optimized and we produce optimized power.
But here’s the catch…when we’re working out at high intensities, and/or in high temperatures, we can lose body water faster than it can be replaced orally. This is true even when you are drinking Osmo Active Hydration—which is developed to be the fastest product at replacing body-water orally. Osmo Active rehydrates approximately three-times faster than water.
In future posts, we’ll get into how Osmo Active Hydration is so fast at rehydration, but for now let’s focus on what you can do to stay hydrated—and powerful.
What You Can Do
So what can you do to stay properly hydrated and avoid dehydration?
- Rehydrate when you wake up. We lose body water while we’re sleeping, so drinking 16 ounces of water during the first hour of waking will help top-up your body water.Note: Check out “Performance Begins with Pee” to learn about processes and tools we provide to help you monitor your hydration status.
- Start your workout hydrated. Drink 20 ounces of Osmo Active Hydration over the 30 minutes preceding your workout.
- During your workout, start drinking immediately and drink small sips every 10 minutes or so. Most people, under most conditions, should drink 20-25 ounces of Osmo Active Hydration per hour of exercise (roughly one small or large water bottle).Lighter athletes or athletes exercising in cool weather conditions may only require 16-18 ounces an hour. Larger athletes or athletes exercising under hot and humid conditions may require more than 30 ounces an hour.
- In situations where you will be losing body water faster than you can replace it (exercising in hot weather, or exercising at high intensity, or for a long duration) drink Osmo PreLoad hydration to hyper-hydrate (go above normal body water. When you drink PreLoad as recommended, you will end up with between 8-11% more blood plasma than normal.) This acts like an “auxiliary tank” of body water, which will ward-off dehydration.
Thanks for reading. We’d love to know if this post was useful to you. Drop us a line at TeamOsmo@OsmoNutrition.com with comments or suggestions.
Live long and perspire!