3 BIG Reasons to Drink Water

Football is underway and it is HOT, literally! There are many parts of the country where temperatures are in the triple digits at the start of summer football passing leagues and camps. In the midst of hot weather sometimes a slurpee or sports drink may seem to be the answer but let me offer you 3 BIG reasons why some good ol “H-2-Oh” could be your best option.

#1  Drinking Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.

“Through the posterior pituitary gland, your brain communicates with your kidneys and tells it how much water to excrete as urine or hold onto for reserves,” says Guest, who is also an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University.

When you’re low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. And unless you are taking medications that make you thirsty, Guest says, you should listen to those natural cues that your body gives you and get yourself a drink of water.

Television commercials and local convenience stores may entice us to drink sweetened and artificially flavored/colored drinks or slushes, but the best option is water.

Drinking water is sufficient to keep your body hydrated before, during and after a light or moderate exercise session. However, if you are taking part in a high-intensity practice session for an extended period of time or in a high-temperature environment, it is recommended that you drink a sports drink. The carbohydrate in Gatorade for example, can help to replace glycogen that is lost while you are doing vigorous physical activities. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that you use the carbohydrate replacement in sports drinks an hour after you have completed a high intensity physical activity. The best thing to do is to use a combination of water and Gatorade.

Since sports drinks like Gatorade contain high amounts of carbohydrates and calories they should not be consumed on a regular basis. Sports drinks should not be used as the main fluid replacement. If you are taking a 30-minute walk, drinking water will provide enough hydration. Drinking Gatorade is only necessary for vigorous activities such as long distance running, cycling, playing football in the heat, and other vigorous sports. For most athletes, one Gatorade per day of strenuous activity is adequate. Most of your fluids should come from drinking water and/or food consumption that naturally contains water-like fruits and vegetables.

#2  Water Helps Energize Muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue.  “When muscle cells don’t have adequate fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer,” says Guest.

Drinking enough fluids is especially important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating. A special note on energy drinks. 

#3  The biggest danger to a football athlete in a hot environment is heat stroke. It is extremely important that coaches and parents take the necessary steps to prevent this very dangerous condition.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heat-stroke/DS01025, heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather. You are considered to have heatstroke when your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. High humidity, certain health problems and some medications increase your risk of heatstroke. So does being a young child or older adult.

Heatstroke is the progression of two worsening heat-related conditions. When your body overheats, you first may develop heat cramps. If you don’t cool down, you may progress to symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as heavy sweating, nausea, lightheadedness and feeling faint.

Heatstroke occurs if your body temperature continues to rise. At this point, emergency treatment is needed. In a period of hours, untreated heatstroke can cause damage to your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. These injuries get worse the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.

So, it is extremely important to watch for the signs and symptoms listed above in athletes participating in practices where temperatures are very hot. Stressing pre-hydration to athletes is very important. Drinking adequate amounts of water PRIOR to participating in athletic competition is always recommended.

An athlete that is showing signs of heat stroke should be immediately removed from competition as well as:

  • Get the victim to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool or tepid water to the skin (for example you may spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose), fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation, and place ice packs under armpits and groin.
  • If the person is able to drink liquids, have them drink cool water or other cool beverages that do not contain alcohol or caffeine.
  • Monitor body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101 to 102 F (38.3 to 38.8 C).
  • Always notify emergency services (911) immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can give you further instructions for treatment of the victim.

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