For athletes, maintaining the optimum level of energy and hydration is key to performing well in sports. There have been various discussions on the subject, particularly on how to optimise performance to boost energy levels and stay hydrated.

Here are some research findings that can benefit healthcare professionals when giving health advice and consultations, particularly to athletes.

Drinking when thirsty prevents athletes from contracting EAH

Although many people understand the risks of dehydration, few realise that overhydration poses serious health risks as well. According to an updated consensus statement on exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), published in July 2015, the best approach for athletes to prevent serious reductions in blood sodium levels is to drink when thirsty, rather than before.

EAH is a condition which occurs due to a decrease in sodium level caused by excessive water in the body. The consensus also emphasised on role of thirst and physiological sensing mechanisms that prompt when one should drink fluids. By acknowledging these mechanisms, extreme dehydration may be prevented.

According to Mitchell Rosner, a kidney specialist at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine, at least 14 deaths have been documented from EAH since 1981, and the common feature is excessive water consumption during athletic events.

Sports drinks and coconut water are not always hydrating

The consumption of sports and energy drinks is another topic that is often highlighted in research. Sports drinks have become a popular choice among athletes due to the vitamins and electrolytes content, but the extent of the consumption is a question health experts are frequently asked.

Lauren Popeck, a registered dietitian at Orlando Health in Florida, recommends a sports drink if the individual sweats a lot, as electrolytes are lost through sweat. However, this does not mean that athletes should rely too heavily on sports drinks.

Findings from a research that were presented at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) revealed the potential of coconut water as a natural sports drink, particularly for light exercise. Based on the study, researchers found that coconut water contained up to 1,500 mg/litre of potassium compared to up to 300 mg/litre for Powerade and Gatorade.

However, according to Chhandashri Bhattacharya, who presented the report, its lower sodium content makes it unsuitable as a good sports drink for individuals who engage in strenuous exercise, as it cannot replace the sodium lost through sweating.

Beet juice lowers blood pressure and boosts energy levels

In a study that was published in 2015, it was found that healthy male subjects that drank beet juice for 15 days had lower blood pressure and more dilated blood vessels at rest and during exercise. This finding suggests that there is great potential for beet juice as a dietary supplement.

The study conducted by Jae-Suk Lee and six other researchers also entails that beet juice can help individuals to perform for a longer period of time before the onset of fatigue.

In view of the discoveries that have been made from the different studies on energy and hydration, healthcare professionals should enhance their knowledge and awareness on evidence-based practices, particularly among athletes and sportspeople.

With the right approach and proper communication, these individuals may benefit by making more well-informed choices and decisions in their everyday routine. MIMS

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