Wild About Water
by Kirk Layfield, PhD EMT-P
If you’re not wild about water, you should be. Water is undoubtedly the most important element to an athlete when measuring its effectiveness on performance. With Loretta Lynn’s just around the corner, I wanted to congratulate everyone who has made it to the big dance and shed a little light on the importance of keeping yourself hydrated during the week’s worth of events.
Water is used by the body in the digestive process, transportation of nutrients, elimination of toxic waste and regulation of body temperature. A water loss of as little as 2-3% of body weight can cause a measurable decline in the functioning of the circulatory and thermal regulatory systems. This is equivalent to a 4 pound sweat loss in a 200 pound athlete, and is very common especially in the south during the summer and early fall months. Additional water loss (dehydration) can cause a decrease in strength, endurance and reaction time. Water has so many functions that it is almost impossible to talk about all of them in one article, but I am going to concentrate on those that are essential to the motocross and off road enthusiast.
As I said, the importance of water to an athlete is essential. The muscles that drive your performance are three-quarters water. The brain that steers your limbs is 76% water. The blood that carries your nutrients is 82% water, and the lungs that provide your oxygen are nearly 90% water. Okay, get the idea that water is important yet? Good. Let me enlighten you further.
The most important nutrient in your body is plain water. The quality of your tissues, their performance, and their resistance to injury is dependent on the quality of the water you drink and you must drink it constantly. However, clean water is a scarce commodity. Most tap water in America is badly polluted. The Environmental Protection Agency figures show that about 85% of tap water in America is now contaminated. There are more than 55,000 regulated chemical dumps and estimated 200,000 unregulated dumps across the nation that are leaking into our ground water. Biochemical analyses of athletes using tap water showed a 3-7% drop in performance as related to athletes consuming clean water. No high performance machine can operate to its potential when you provide it with dirty lubricants. It’s like putting bad gas in your bike.
So how do you go about getting clean water? There are a couple of different ways. The quick solution is to start using bottled water. As always, there are things to look for when buying bottled water. The bottled water industry is booming, and with over 500 companies producing water, it is important to now what to look for. The FDA does not regulate the bottled water industry, so it becomes the consumer’s responsibility to be educated on the products. Did you know that most bottled water is simply tap water put through minimal conditioning filters to make it taste better? And what about spring water? There is nothing intrinsically wonderful about Spring Water. In fact, they are never pure and contain all kinds of organic matter and some very toxic minerals. The best source of bottled water is distilled waters. They are the only clean source of bottled water with virtually everything being removed from the water through steam distillation. The long term solution is a water purifying system for your home, but be sure to shop around and get as much information as possible before you purchase a unit for your home.
Now that you know what kind of water to drink, how much water is needed to provide the body with enough to get the job done? The average athlete will need to drink about 96 ounces of water per day, that’s 12, 8oz. glasses for the mathematically impaired. A good way to ensure appropriate water intake is to drink at least one glass of plain water every waken hour of the day. DO NOT rely on your thirst as an indicator for when to drink water. By the time the thirst sensation has occurred, the body is already in a state of slight dehydration. Drink water before during and after training, practicing or racing. You should also avoid high sugar fluids. Sugar slows the absorption of water. Sugared fluids include soft drinks, most fruit juices, and some commercial sports drinks. There are many different kinds of sports drinks on the market today and some can really play a major role in keeping you hydrated when used properly and in conjunction with plenty of clean water and a balanced diet.
To ensure that you are absorbing the most water possible, be sure to drink cold water. The body will absorb water below 50 degrees faster than room temperature water. As a bonus it supplies a reservoir of cold in the stomach that will absorb considerable body heat. Sip, don’t gulp your water. Gulping swallows air which disturbs stomach function and slows absorption.
If you have questions or comments, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and include Racer X in your subject line. In addition, I will be working all week at Loretta’s with the medical crew so if you see me please feel free to say hello, I would be glad to speak with you. Good luck to everyone racing and a have fun, hydrated week!
About the Author - Innovation Training Systems (ITS) is a fitness, nutrition & wellness consulting and healthcare education business. ITS is dedicated to serving the needs of amateur, professional and occupational athletes, as well as those who aspire to be the best they can be in everyday life – no matter what they do. They also offer convenient education programs for the healthcare, wellness and fitness industry. ITS is owned and operated by Exercise Physiologist/Firefighter/Paramedic/Former Professional Motocross rider, Kirk Layfield, who originally hails from Gainesville, Florida and now resides in Clermont, Florida.
That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.