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All Things To Help With Your Hydration

Why do I become dehydrated? Is this dangerous?

Through your daily activities, fluid is lost through sweating but also through the water vapour that is lost through your breathe. This will all lead to an increased state of dehydration which can then cause a general loss of performance and you will find that you fatigue far quicker.

Being dehydrated will lead to a reduction in blood volume, placing a greater strain on the heart, lungs and circulatory system. It has been reported that a 2% loss of body weight, through fluid loss, leads to a reduction in aerobic capacity by 10-20% during exercise lasting 90 minutes or more.

The more dehydrated you become the less able you are to sweat, this is due to the body prioritising blood flow to the muscles rather than the skin, therefore, the body is unable to manage body temperature as effectively.

How much fluid should I consume before exercise?

The main priority before exercise should be your hydration. As previously mentioned, if you are dehydrated and are looking to perform at the highest level that you possibly can, then you are physically unable to do this. A study involving long distance runners reported a 2% drop in body weight through fluid loss, caused a substantial drop (6-7%) in the speeds they were capable of reaching.

In an ideal world prevention of dehydration is better than curing it. This should be thought about more so when exercising in hot and humid conditions, as you will dehydrate quicker. To monitor your hydration status you should observe the volume and colour of your urine. There are many charts available to compare the fluid colour with, whilst your urine should ideally be pale yellow in colour and not completely clear.

It is recommended that an athlete should consume 5-7ml of fluid per kg of body weight slowly over a 4-hour period. Therefore if the athlete weighs 70kg they should consume 350-490ml of fluid pre-exercise. Always carry a water bottle with you, this allows you to manage your own hydration rather than depending on a coach.

What should I be consuming during exercise?

Fluid consumption throughout the period of exercise will vary from athlete to athlete. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that there are no specific recommendations on fluid intake during exercise due to the differing sweat rates and composition of the sweat. The aim of maintaining hydration throughout exercise is to limit the total loss of performance.

Exercise will vary in difficulty, this depend on the environment or intensity of a session. Therefore, the best strategy is to observe the fluid loss that takes place through sweating before and after a standard session. This is done by taking the weight of the athlete before and after exercise; with the aim to limit the dehydration in future sessions to less than 2% of body weight. Alterations then can be made on how much should be consumed dependent on the environment.

How will fluid help my recovery?

Following exercise the body needs to have the fluid balance returned to normal; this involves the restoration of water and electrolytes that were lost through sweating. Researchers have recommended that you should look to consume 1.2-1.5 times the weight lost following exercise. Working on the assumption that 1kg of body weight is the equivalent to 1L of sweat, you should look to replace the fluid loss with 1.2-1.5L of fluid. This should not be drunk in one go, however, drunk steadily over a longer period of time.

A key reason to maintain good hydration following exercise is for the recovery of the athletes muscles. This is a process known as protein synthesis; it plays a role in the rebuilding of muscle, and requires the muscles to be hydrated to work. Therefore, poor hydration will lengthen the time at which the muscle recovers following exercise.

Water versus Sports Drinks?

When performing moderate-high intensity exercise you may feel nauseous when consuming water, this can be due to dehydration or the intensity which you work at. A sports drink will aid you during exercise at the high intensity when it is performed for longer than an hour. A sports drink containing 40-80g of carbohydrate per litre can promote hydration and normalise blood sugar level. If the exercise is longer than 2 hours in length or you are sweating heavily you should opt for a sports drink that contains sodium.

There are three main types of drinks available to us in daily life; hypotonic, isotonic and hypertonic.

  • Hypotonic drink – This drink contains less than 4g of carbohydrate per 100ml. This has a low osmolality (concentration of particles in comparison to that of the body); due to it being more dilute than the body this is absorbed faster than plain water.
  • Isotonic drink – This is the typical sports drink and has a similar osmolality to the body. This drink offers the ideal compromise between rehydrating and refuelling. This is absorbed as fast or faster than water.
  • Hypertonic drink – This can be categorised as a ready to drink soft drink, this has a higher osmolality than the body with a higher concentration of electrolytes, this is absorbed more slowly than water.

How to make your own Sports Drink from home?

What are the sports drinks available to me?

There are two designated types of sports drinks that are available to us. You have the choice of either a fluid replacement drink or a carbohydrate drink.

  • Fluid replacement drink – This has dilute concentrations of electrolytes and sugars (carbohydrates). Sugars that you will often see in these drinks are glucose, fructose and sucrose. The aim of this type of drink is to replace fluid faster than plain water, whilst the added sugar in the drink will maintain blood sugar level.
  • Carbohydrate drink – These will provide a greater amount of carbohydrate per 100ml than fluid replacement drinks. This is typically made up of maltodextrins. You would typically use this drink following exercise by way of recovery rather than rehydration.

Both of these types of drinks can be either hypotonic or isotonic.

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Why Do We Bother With a Warm-up?

We are always told that warming-up before a game can benefit us, but how often do you find yourself wondering, why do I have to spend so much of my time on it? Well the idea of the warm-up is to get the body fully prepared for the activity that lays ahead. When the warm-up is of a certain quality and length, it will produce physiological and psychological effects on the body. Whilst it has also been shown that a warm-up can reduce the risk of injury through stretching of the muscle-tendon unit; this in-turn allows for an increased stretch with less tension when exposed to an external load.

What are the two main types of warm-up?

  1. General Warm-up: This incorporates more general movements rather than specific movements. This type of warm-up will tend to use generic body movements and activities that are unrelated to the specific neuromuscular actions that are used in their particular activity or sport. An example of an activity that takes place in this stage is dynamic and static stretching.
  2. Sport Specific Warm-up: This is the application of big muscle group actions with rhythmic movements that provide a rehearsal of skill for the activity ahead. This is the performance of actions that directly relate to your sport examples are; throwing a ball to prepare for cricket or baseball, hitting a ball with your racquet for tennis and shooting a ball into a net for basketball or netball.

What happens physiologically during a warm-up?

Physiological effects can be defined as the effects that take place within the body.

A warm-up will produce a higher muscle temperature, an increase in local muscle oxygen availability, increase in the uptake of oxygen within the muscles and lower the blood lactate level. There will be an increase in blood flow around the body and muscles with an increase in oxygenated blood being delivered to the working muscles. This is due to the increase in heart rate, increase in stroke volume and an increase in breathing rate. This increased breathing rate helps to oxygenate the blood whilst also removing the waste products from the blood.

  1. Faster contraction/relaxation in the muscles
  2. There is a greater economy of movement in the muscles through the decreased viscous resistance
  3. Due to the higher temperatures, oxygen is released more readily by the haemoglobin
  4. Facilitated nerve transmission and muscle metabolism
  5. Increase in the blood flow through active tissues due to vasodilation

What effect does a warm-up have psychologically?

This is the effect the warm-up has on the mental aspect of physical activity.

Whether this helps to motivate the athlete or bringing a level of focus to their game. It has been reported that the specific skill based warm-ups consisting of movements or techniques involved in the chosen physical activity can improve accuracy and co-ordination. Further to this, there is a notion that preparation before completing the activity can sufficiently prepare the athlete to compete at their highest level without fear of injury.

Ultimately, it does come down to the athletes personal beliefs and feelings; if they believe that a warm-up is beneficial prior to their activity then their performance levels are likely benefit directly from a warm-up. However, if their belief is that a warm-up provides no true benefit to their performance; a warm-up may provide little to no effect, however, the risk of injury will be increased.

Structure of a warm-up

ExerciseFor How LongRationale for Use
Run or team based game5-10 minutesElevates heart rate which increases the blood flow around the body.
Variety of dynamic stretches: squats, lunges, sidesteps, skips, bounds (naming a few exercises there are a wide variety available)5-10 minutesThis prepares the joints and muscles for activity. Placing the muscle-tendon junction on stretch to prepare it for the external load. All of these exercises should be dynamic in nature with limited use of static stretching. The main aim is to maintain the temperature in the tissues so they are ready for the activity.
Sport-specific: These should have exercises that steadily progress through in intensity. For example, if the sport involves throwing and catching you would aim to start off doing small underarm throws and catches. This would then progress onto overhead throwing over a greater distance, with the view to then incorporate the running aspect to familiarise the body with the levels of co-ordination needed5-15 minutesThis will fully prepare the athlete for the particular movements involved in their sport. This further helps to prevent injury whilst further incorporating the psychological effects previously mentioned.
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Why Massage is Beneficial for Everyone

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There have been many journals produced on the effects of different types of massage when it comes to the relief from stress or anxiety on the psychological side of things; and then the physiological effects due to massage. On the whole the majority of the journals that I have read around this topic of massage and the effects of massage have turned a positive outlook on having regular massage whether it be a sports massage or just a relaxing massage in a spa.

(Fraser & Kerr, 1993) measured the effects of a massage on the anxiety levels of elderly residents. They had three groups with one group receiving massage, one receiving conversation only and the other no intervention. They measured the anxiety levels of the patients before and after through the use of a questionnaire, electromyography readings, heart rate and blood pressure readings. They ran this test across 4 consecutive evenings and found that those patients in the group with massage had a statistically significant difference to the mean levels for anxiety in the patients. (Fraser & Kerr, 1993) recommended the use of massage when caring for elderly patients as they can promote relaxation and improve communication between patients and carers.

One of the main psychological effects that massage helps with is to lower anxiety. Anxiety is caused by a hormone in our body’s called cortisol. This hormone is used for the flight or fight mechanism; this will increase the blood pressure and heart rate when needed as an involuntary response. This higher the level of cortisol with in the body can lead to headaches, insomnia and digestive problems. By having a regular massage this can lead to a greater amount of oxytocin and serotonin being released into the body which can help with lower levels of anxiety and stress. This decrease in stress and anxiety will help to increase the mood levels a patient feel’s. Patients with high levels of stress and anxiety may suffer from psychological issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression; by increasing their mood levels may help to diminish the bad thoughts in their head from these disorders.

During a massage, the body will secrete a greater amount of endorphins. Endorphins will interact with the pain receptors in the brain; with these being secreted during a massage a patient’s level of pain is likely to be decreased. If a patient has chronic pain from an injury such as patella tendonitis, a massage can help to alleviate some of the pain that is felt during day-to-day living. This will then allow a patient more freedom due to a decrease in their pain levels. These will have a greater level of relaxation for the patient and allow them too really let go from their stresses. This will also impact the physiological responses of massage by helping to lower the heart rate and blood pressure.

On the physiological side of things there are many benefits to be taken from a massage. Firstly, post injury you are likely to have some fibrous tissue or scar tissue formation around the injury site. A massage can help to move this into a mobile tissue and help it to broken down. Secondly, a massage will increase heart rate and blood pressure; this will then help in getting more oxygen around the body and also help with getting rid of waste products. An example of this would be surrounding the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The formation of varicose veins is due to the valves preventing the back-flow of blood to cave in causing these veins to appear very prominently on the legs. By having regular massage this can aid the venous return and also draw the waste products out.

I personally feel that, with these few effects from massage mentioned in this piece it would be silly not to get a massage. With effects such as a decrease in stress and anxiety and also the removal of waste products it will be inclusive for all.