Dehydration and everything that comes with it is our number one enemy in the Box. From fatigue, to muscle cramps, to dizziness (wiki-presyncope), it’s impossible to understate the importance hydration plays in maximizing your Crossfit WOD.
What is hydration?
Hydration is the intake of sufficient levels of water that interact with electrolytes to keep our nerve and muscle systems functioning properly.(web md) The process of hydration serves to remove waste, and maintain a healthy metabolism by controlling heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure.
Why is Hydration Important?
As is the case in all physical activities, hydration is paramount to successful performance. According to the American Council on Exercise, the average adult male body is comprised of 65% water which is present in the form of cellular fluid and tissue; in fact, muscle tissue itself contains 75% water while fatty tissue contains 10%. Think about that for a second, over half our body matter is made of water so it is clearly serves an important role. Think of water as the oil for your car engine, in order for all the mechanics to function property they must be well lubricated. In the human body, water acts in various capacities and plays many crucial roles but at its core, water’s main role is to regulate our body temperature and to enable chemical reactions necessary for the metabolic processes that produce energy and allow us to crank out our Hero WODs.
How Does Water Work?
Water has both physical and chemical properties that play important roles in the hydration process. In the physical sense, water is a solvent, it transports oxygen in our blood which eliminates toxins and waster and allows nutrients to pass through cell membranes in a process called “osmosis” where the body absorbs these nutrients and distributes them to areas in need. Physically, water has thermal properties that regulate our body temperature; compared to other materials (and thanks to hydrogen) water can create a relatively large amount of heat while only slightly altering its own temperature. And of course sweat, sweat is 95% water and perspiration is the key to keeping our body temperature regulated during grueling Crossfit training. In the chemical sense, water helps regulate our metabolism by with its participation as a medium in the catabolic and anabolic reactions that break down carbohydrates and other nutrients into energy called Adenosine Triphosphate – or “ATP.”
What Does This Mean for Your WOD?
In simple terms – if you’re not hydrated, your blood is not pumping enough oxygen to your muscles, your body is not producing enough ATP Engery to keep you functioning at maximum capacity, taking more effort to train at reduced levels which are further exacerbated by reduced perspiration levels raising your risk of Heat Exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is no fun, it comes in several different forms and it can end a crushing blow to your WOD before your warm up set even is over. Mild exhaustion like “heat cramps” can cause muscle and joint pain that if serious enough will require several hours of hydration to the bring body temperature and muscle function back to equilibrium. Serious heat exhaustion comes in the form of Heat Stroke which can cause fatigue, dizziness and even death. The maximum sweat rate in adults is 2-4 litres per hour, that means if it takes a full hour to get through a WOD your body has lost over 1 gallon of water in sweat.
Direct Benefits to Your Crossfit WOD
- Increases blood flow to muscles and joints generating maximum force and promoting better recovery between sets.
- Improves temperature regulation for both physical and mental performance.
- Increases energy/decreases fatigue for sustained workouts and maximum performance.
- Promotes and maintains low heart rate and assists in controlled breathing (more on controlled breathing in Meditation).
Optimal Fluid Intake Before, During & After Your WOD
The American Council on Exercise produced the following cheat sheet on hydrating before, during and after your workout.
- Drink 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before the start of your WOD.
- Drink 8 ounces of fluid (water or sports drink) 20-30 minutes prior to exercise or during warming up.
- Drink 7-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes during WOD.
- Drink an additional 8 ounces of fluid within 30 minutes after your WOD.
- Drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after your WOD.
To put these doses in perspective the average size sports drink (think Vitamin Water shaped bottle) is about 8 ounces. The key here is not getting bogged down in the numbers, the idea is providing yourself an outline to follow and build habits from. Start by consciously remembering to hydrate yourself a few hours before your workout and right after your workout. Once you fall into the habit it becomes second nature and you find your body will naturally alert you when it’s time to take another swig of fluids during your training, without having to consciously remind yourself..