If you're competing in a sport which requires you to hit a certain weight at a specific date to avoid having to face a guy with 20 lbs more muscle than yourself (ouch!), you're probably familiar with the concept of "sweating out" that last pound or two of bodyweight that will make you squeeze into the right weight class.
I have heard about the craziest stuff, which might sound hilarious to others, but could actually carry some serious health hazards to the athlete. For example, how about dressing in a rubber suit, dragging an exercise bike into the sauna, and then spend half an hour they're steam-cooking yourself?
Sure, the job gets done—the weight comes off—but at the price of severe dehydration. Dehydration is no laughing matter. For starters, it severely cuts into your athletic capabilities right off the bat. Muscles need to be hydrated to work properly, just like a car needs oil. No water (or oil), and the machine is not working optimally. It's that simple.
How It Will Affect You
In fact, dehydration will make the odds of you cramping up skyrocket. Regardless of the sport, getting carried off on a stretcher is surely not what you had in mind all the time when preparing for three months before the competition.
Strain On Internal Organs
It puts tremendous strain on your internal organs, the kidneys in particular. You have a lot of salts, urea, and stuff you'd rather not even think about in your body, pal. Your kidneys are a pair of trusty friends who'll help you clean the mess up, but they need the water to function properly.
If they don't get it, there's a buildup (since the junk simply doesn't get flushed out), with increased strain on them as a result. Make it a habit to make life harder for the kidneys, and the favor will be returned soon enough.
Diminished Mental Capacity
When dehydrated, your mental capacity takes a dip. This may sound silly, but let me tell you a real-life example. When I was in the army, we—of course—had to run around all the time, doing various strenuous things that made us sweat. Now, in the heat of late August I ran out of water an hour or so before we'd go back to camp.
We had those little purifying-pills that'd kill the bacteria and germs in any kind of dirty water, but I figured I could make it (those pills make the water taste like pool-water, only 5 times worse. No, make that 10 times worse.)
Well, not only was I about to collapse during the 2-mile jog back to camp an hour later, I also discovered that my mind was so blurred I couldn't understand what the blackboard said we had for dinner. I'm serious. I was standing 2 feet away from the blackboard, not being able to piece together the letters to form the words: "Steak, potatoes, gravy, and broccoli". It simply didn't click until the third or fourth read-through.
It sucks to be thirsty, and—newsflash!—Excess sweating makes you stink like a pigsty!
Other cases where excess—and undue—sweating is common as a part of contest-prep for bodybuilders, overweight people wanting to lose fat faster, and your average gym rat who translates the increased sweating into increased efficiency of the training.
It's an easy—but faulty—connection to make in your mind. The bodybuilder will find that the problem is more a question about that last pound of body fat rather than water retention. The overweight person sees the sweating as a sign of burned calories. Far from the truth—not only does the person decrease his/her capacity for fat loss in the first place, he/she also is more likely to sag and quit earlier than they'd have to, thanks to the decreased athletic performance associated with dehydration.
Bummer! Last but not least, the gym rat that uses the sweat as a gauge of intensity should consider the logic behind it. If that were the case, then pumping away with 2 lbs-dumbbells in Phoenix in July would get you more buffed than lifting like Dorian Yates in Alaska.
Bottom line: It doesn't make sense to wear 3 shirts to sweat more!
Things To Do To Stay Hydrated
- Drink plenty of water. Not just during the workout, but throughout the day.
- Avoid coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages unless you also have some water with it. Caffeine is a diuretic, which makes the advice go for consumption of C/E/A-stack kind of diet pills as well. Alcohol is another substance that can dehydrate you in a hurry.
- Wear cool clothes. Not only are they comfortable to work out in, it also keeps your laundry basket from smelling like that guy in the football-team back in school who would not wash his clothes for weeks.
- Pick a gym with A/C. Living in California myself, this is a given standard here, but other places might not see it as a necessity... Until that one day with 110 degrees heat waves! And rest assured—that'll be the day when you were planning to do that record-breaking squat.
- Do not get tempted by diuretics! Regardless of whether the diuretic in question is an herb from your local health store, or something much nastier, provided by the slimy guy hanging out in the locker room! Sure, you might lose a couple of pounds, but until that means losing a couple of pounds of FAT, not WATER, it will not do you much good in the long run. It's like trying to improve the gas mileage by cleverly siphoning out a gallon of gas from the tank.