The human body constitutes approximately 60% water which is a key component of every cell contained within it. Hydration is key to keeping performance optimal in any environment but especially in hot climates when physiological systems work maximally to maintain bodily function and output. Exercising increases breathing and heart rate as well as the production of the hormone vasopressin from the pituitary gland, aiding water regulation and retention. Vessels close to the skin dilate and blood flow is directed away from none-essential organs towards the skin, raising sweat production to aid thermoregulation. In heat, these mechanisms are working at an optimal pace as the body is placed under increased stress.
Concentration is the ability to focus the mind on a task and is required when participating in any sport, particularly at elite levels during a major tournament. Tactical and technical decisions are made requiring split-second judgements – some consciously and others from the ingrained abilities from many hours of training. Just a 2% loss in hydration can begin to impair these (Jenkendrup & Gleeson, 2010) by lowering focus levels and accelerating the onset of fatigue, thus hindering physiological and psychological performance. As athletes can also experience competitive stress and anxiety, psychological reasoning, attention and state of mind can be seriously debilitated. Organising a system to maintain hydration status pre, during and post exercise can therefore help reduce any negative impact on training and competition.
Research studies have highlighted that exercise in a high-temperature environment for an extended period of time (>1 hr) creating more than a 2% decrease in hydration, negatively affects decision-making, perception, psychomotor control and attention (Cian et al, 2000; Cian et al, 2001; Sharma et al, 1986). Other studies have shown that when the opportunity to drink fluids is removed, the athlete’s mood-status decreases, impacting upon effort, motivation and focus (D’Anci et al. 2009). Although general consensus is that cognitive functioning will be affected by a decrease in hydration status, identifying a certain percentage is difficult due to individual variances in perspiration levels, performance abilities and exercise temperatures (Benton, 2011).
To maintain hydration status during warmer training and competition a few key points can be considered: