A common post-training Instagram photo is one of a gi that is drenched in sweat. A soaked typically means that we have put our bodies through the wringer and the five or so pounds of sweat we just lost is proof. What most people do not take as seriously, however, is the adequate replacement of those five or so pounds. When we train, we sweat. And when we sweat, we lose much more than just water. Various electrolytes such as Sodium, Chloride and Potassium are also lost. The challenge is, these electrolytes are responsible for myriad bodily functions including, but not limited to keeping your neurons (nerve cells) firing and allowing muscles to contract and relax. In more extreme circumstances, loss of electrolytes can mean the difference between life and death. For our purposes, as jiu-jitsu practitioners, the loss of electrolytes can mean the difference between our bodies functioning properly or not at all.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Hydration is important because, without sufficient water intake (dehydration), our bodies will not function properly. If you have ever felt dizzy and incredibly fatigued after a sparring session, you might have been dehydrated. Sometimes we attribute this dehydration to “solid training” where we worked hard, but you will find that these symptoms are mostly due to losing too many fluids in such a short period of time –this is not a good thing.
Some symptoms to note during or immediately after training sessions are:
- Muscle Cramps
- Muscle Weakness
These are symptoms to keep in mind during training or right after so that you can be aware of your hydration or lack thereof.
What may not be so evident is that long after a training session, symptoms of dehydration may still exist if we have not hydrated sufficiently. In addition to those listed above, these are also symptoms of general dehydration long after your last session:
- Dry Mouth: When you are dehydrated, your body has a hard time producing saliva since it is using those resources for other more important parts of your body.
- Dry Skin: There do not seem to be any definitive answers as to why this occurs, however, there is a hypothesis that when you are dehydrated, the body pulls moisture from the skin to deliver to other, more important functions of the body.
- Food Cravings: When you are dehydrated, your brain receives mixed signals on whether you are hungry or thirsty. If you are feeling hungry after a meal, try drinking more water. If you are genuinely hungry, you will not be satiated simply by drinking more water.
- Dark Urine: Our kidneys filter out our body’s waste. The more hydrated we are, the less concentrated our urine will be with waste. Therefore, our urine should be lighter in color due to the high levels of water. If your urine is lacking water, it will be darker. If your urine looks like coca cola, go see a doctor immediately!
Rehydration is the process of replacing the water we lose as the result of daily activities. One of the most overlooked aspects of training is maintaining adequate water intake. Earlier I mentioned the image of a sweaty, post-training kimono. For the obsessive, weighing your gi pre- and post-training can be a great indicator of how many pounds of water needed to rehydrate. Whether you do this, is up to you, but the fact is that the water needs to be replaced. A good practice is to keep a gallon of water with you during training. A gallon of water itself weighs approximately eight pounds. Unless you have done a marathon training session, it is unlikely you have lost much more than a gallon, but you can always use your pre- and post-training kimono weight to get a precise number.
Urine: Use the color of your urine as an indicator of adequate hydration.
While you are taking in more water, remember that we also need to replace the electrolytes that were lost. When we train, our muscles use a good amount of glycogen (read: sugar) for fuel. If our bodies do not replace these glycogen stores, our muscles will simply stop working. In order to keep your muscles moving, your body will find other, precarious ways fueling the muscles. This includes a process called “catabolism”, which is the breaking down of muscle tissue into extra glucose to keep you moving. This process is part of a whole cascade of other events that are detrimental to your health including, but not limited to, the release of cortisol and suppression of your immune system. Thus, during long bouts of training, feeding our muscles what they want becomes a vital part of training and recovery.
Pedialyte and Sports Drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc)
In a pinch, Pedialyte and sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade can be good choices to help rehydrate. The biggest concern with drinks such as these is the amount of artificial sweeteners, food dyes and other chemicals. Ideally, we want to replace our electrolytes with whole foods through our diet. This method (simply eating all the time), however, is not the most efficient for athletes on the go. Grabbing a Pedialyte or Gatorade at the corner store can help immensely if you are not too concerned with the whole “chemicals in your food” thing.
Post-training mixes like ATH Organics Lytes or Garden of Life Recovery (both are sweetened with real cane sugar) are excellent for post-training rehydration. Adding these solutions to your water after training can be optimal for rehydrating because first, they are chock-full of electrolytes. These electrolytes are meant to replace many of the electrolytes we lose as the result of sweating after a bout of high-intensity exercise. Furthermore, they provide post-training carbohydrates which are crucial for muscle recovery.
Rehydrating on a Budget
In the event you see rehydration as a necessary tool but are not willing to buy electrolyte solutions or drinks, another, cheap way to replace your electrolytes is to add some sea salt into your water. In addition to Sodium, sea salt also contains Potassium and Magnesium. If you plan on going this route, please DO NOT USE TABLE SALT. Table salt is been stripped of most of its minerals and is, therefore, nothing more than just extra, processed Sodium.
Taking care of your body is important for jiu-jitsu.
Most jiu-jitsu practitioners and athletes assume training is solely about training. The reality is, getting better at jiu-jitsu entails much more than training. Optimizing your Jiu-jitsu potential also requires that you replenish the amount of water you lose during training as well as all the important electrolytes, vitamins and minerals that your body loses when it sweats. Our bodies work hard and require fuel to get us through some demanding training sessions. Replacing water, electrolytes and a little post-training carbohydrates can go a long way in your journey to practice jiu-jitsu consistently over the long-haul.