Active Recovery & Hydration – Part 1 of 3
Why is Hydration Important?
We all know that hydration is important. We hear about it all the time. So, what is it exactly that makes hydration so important? Why does our body need water anyway?
Let’s go over it by breaking it down into several categories:
Our body requires water in order to pump blood throughout our body. The majority of our blood volume is water mixed with proteins and electrolytes. We call this plasma. When water levels decrease, the blood becomes thicker and more viscous. It is unable to squeeze through our tiny pipes as quickly. Would you rather water or molasses pumping through your body? How do you expect lactic acid, broken down cellular components, and other toxic byproducts to get out of the fatigued muscle if it cannot get blood flow through it? Moreover, how do you expect fresh oxygen, clean water, and nutrients to get to fatigued muscle if blood is not flowing quickly to it?
Chemical reactions are occurring in every cell of your entire body. Producing energy is simply taking a molecule with hydrogen atoms, popping them off, and forcing their electrons through a series of events that churns a pump which phosphorylates a molecule (called ATP). Okay, so maybe it’s fairly complicated, but it’s still a series of chemical reactions.
Water is crucial to chemical reactions because it is the solvent that allows molecules, proteins, and organelles (cellular structures) to float through the cell. If the cell is dehydrated, then it is shrunken and its gelatinous cytosol is more like Jell-O after a night in the fridge than Jell-O when you first mix it.
The body is not very good at removing fat-soluble toxins; therefore, its detoxification processes usually involve sticking water-soluble molecules onto the toxin. Once a toxin is made water-soluble, it is easily eliminated from the kidneys. When you are dehydrated, the kidneys conserve water by reabsorbing it after it has been filtered. Without appropriate hydration levels, the kidneys are not able to adequately excrete water-soluble toxins, so the toxins get recycled as the kidneys try to conserve water. Thus, the toxins continue to circulate through your body.
Although we typically think of “toxins” as things that we eat, drink, and touch, it is important to realize that our body makes its own toxins and byproducts. We are just
like your car’s combustion engine. When making energy, there are always byproducts that need to be removed in order to continue making energy. Common byproducts are heat, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and acid.
Heat: This is why your body gets warmer during exercise.
Carbon dioxide: This is why you breathe faster during exercise.
Nitrogen: This is the breakdown product of protein, and it is turned into urea, which is excreted by the kidneys as urine.
Acid: This is created during exercise as lactic acid during anaerobic metabolism.
Without adequate hydration, your tissue is not able to dump its toxic metabolites into the circulation. If the garbage truck is full every time it swings by your house, it does not matter how often it stops by.
As you can see, hydration is paramount for optimal cellular function. For athletes, it’s even more important. The longer you stay in the dehydrated state, the longer that will take to fully recover and make gains.