Water is essential for survival. It is involved in every bodily function including digestion, regulation of body temperature, vital organ function and it can also impacts our blood volume and heart rate. Put simply, dehydration can negatively affect every vital organ in our body. Dehydration also causes a negative impact on our rate of recovery, repair and muscle growth following exercise.
Being hydrated helps to promote muscle repair, recovery and growth, particularly following exercise. When we use our muscles to complete exercise, muscle fibres break down, and then build back up to become even stronger. This is done via protein synthesis. However, if we do not hydrate during and following a workout, protein synthesis is slowed, creating a slower rate of recovery and muscle growth, minimising the positive effects that exercise has on our muscles.
Dehydration can also negatively affect muscle repair, recovery and growth by reducing the effectiveness of our digestive system. To properly recover after exercise our body requires adequate amounts of protein and carbohydrate to repair and grow. However, if our digestive system doesn’t have enough water, it is less effective at absorbing the nutrients in our food, making it harder for the protein and carbohydrates to be carried from the digestive tract to our cells and muscles to be used for repair and muscle development.
A common sign of dehydration is fatigue and a rise in heart rate. When we are dehydrated, our blood volume is reduced because we are lacking water. This means that our heart has to work harder to pump blood around our body to provide enough oxygen and nutrients to working muscles. It also means that our body has to work harder to clear by-products and toxins away from the working muscles and we become less effective at doing so. As our heart works harder, our heart rate and blood pressure changes, negatively impacting our energy levels. It also means that working muscles don’t receive oxygen and nutrients as efficiently as they should, impacting on energy levels, recovery and repair.
During exercise, our body creates many by-products and toxins that need to be removed from our system. These toxins can be removed from the body by urination, however if we are dehydrated, our body doesn’t produce enough urine because water is prioritised for other bodily functions. This means that we are slowing down the removal of many of these toxins, slowly our rate of recovery and making the body less effective at removing unwanted by-products and waste.
During and following exercise, it is important that you drink regularly to ensure you remain hydrated and replace water lost in sweat and bodily function. This is going to help your body repair, recover and grow as efficiently as possible.
If you are training frequently, you may also benefit from an electrolyte, helping to replace water and salts lost in sweat.