The science behind hydration has been heavily influenced by sports drink companies over the past 40 years. Making health guidelines conflicting and confusing. Growing up and even more so in the army I was taught that I should be consuming a minimum amount of water each day and on hot days replacing electrolytes via sports drinks. You may have received this same advice, Drink 8 cups of water a day, Drink 2 litres per day, for every litre of water drink 1 bottle of sports drink.
Are these hydration guidelines backed up by science and how much has been influenced by beverage companies?
Throughout the 1990’s the American College of Sports Medicine, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, and Gatorade published peer reviewed literature that recommended that athletes drink as much as 1 litre of water, or better yet a sports drink, for each hour they exercised, or “consume the maximum amount that can be tolerated.
Exercise-associated hyponatremia has been seen in marathons, triathlons, and other endurance athletic events. American football has also seen cases of hypoantremia, leading to fatalities. Hyponatremia is coursed by excessive water intake, which dilutes sodium in the blood stream and courses swelling around the brain. Some of the symptoms of hyponatremia include Nausea, headache, confusion and fatigue. This sounds a lot like dehydration, it’s a hot day and you have a headache, what do you do? DRINK MORE WATER. Leaving diagnoses of dehydration or Hyponatremia very difficult.
DEATHS IN SPORT
It has been thought that today more athletes die from excess fluid consumption as apposed to dehydration. The peer reviewed literature produced by gatorade funded studies has killed more athletes than dehydration.
HYDRATION AND EXERCISE
Before I had learnt about Gatorades influence on sports science, I had my own discovery on hydration. When I was in the army and I was training twice a day on the aspiration of one day going for selection to SAS. I had this idea that I would not drink water while I was exercising. Obviously if i was thirsty I would drink water, but only if i had to. My idea was to prepare mentally and not use water breaks as an excuse to rest. I would also turn the music off in the gym or take the equipment outside and train in the Darwin heat, all to build mental toughness. What I found was, that slowly I did not need to drink as much water and became more intune to when I was actually thirsty. Making me question that everything I was taught on hydration to be possibly wrong.
The main ingredients of sports drinks is water and sugar. The small amount of electrolytes that sports drinks consist of will not replenish the electrolytes in the blood stream. Sports drinks will only lead to further dilution of electrolytes and over time diabetes. A fluid that matched the electrolytes in the blood would taste awful. Electrolytes should come from your food. Eat real food that consists of vitamins and minerals and you are golden.
We need to realise that our bodies and brains are robust systems that have survived millions of years with out hydration guidelines. We have an excellent system inbuilt, that will prevent you becoming dehydrated and that is THIRST. The solution is simple.
Drink water, only water and drink to thirst.
If you would like to learn more on hydration a would highly recommend the book Waterlogged