Hydration Function of Fluids
One element of a weight loss plan that often goes underappreciated is the importance of proper hydration practices. Athletes may focus on the micro- and macronutrients they should be consuming, but they sometimes neglect their fluid needs. This is an important point of education when working with athletes. Athletes should have a basic understanding of the various functions of fluids in the body, especially as they pertain to exercise. Body water such as synovial fluids allows movement of joints and protects them from damage. Water is what allows transport of nutrients, metabolites, and other substances throughout the body, nourishing cells and excreting waste material.
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Perhaps most relevant to athletes, however, is the function of body water in regulating temperature. Working muscles produce metabolic heat that is transferred to the blood and starts to raise the core temperature of the body. In fact, up to 15 to 20 times the amount of heat can be produced during high-intensity exercise in the heat than during rest (Stachenfeld 2014). If the body’s core temperature were to rise unchecked, there would be undue cardiovascular strain as well as heat illness, and ultimately death. The body senses increases and decreases in core temperature through a sensor in the hypothalamus that engages thermoregulatory adjustments. When core body temperature increases, there is an increase in blood flow to the skin to dissipate heat via the sweat glands (sweating). The action of sweating is essential to maintain a normal core body temperature, but it effectively reduces the amount of water in the plasma. Dissipating excess heat is extremely important, and sweating is a primary mechanism (along with conduction, convection, and radiation) for heat removal; however, if body water lost via sweat production is not replaced, dehydration and heat injury are likely.
There are many factors that determine sweat rate such as sport type, exercise duration, and intensity. There are environmental determinants of one’s sweat rate that include the temperature, humidity, and air motion, and sky and ground radiation. Clothing and equipment that is worn affects an individual’s sweat rate. There are other individual characteristics influencing one’s sweat rate including body weight, genetic predisposition, heat acclimatization states, and metabolic efficiency (American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM] et al. 2007). While sweating typically accounts for the most significant loss of body water during exercise, there are also respiratory, GI, and renal fluid losses, though these are typically minimal. Recommendations for fluid replacement are outlined later in this chapter.
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