Importance of Hydration
Dehydration can be a real problem for martial artists, MMA and UFC fighters. When UFC and MMA athletes are cutting weight before fights, often they do so by all possible means, which includes reducing fluid intake. This can lead to severe dehydration, setting them up for muscle cramps, decreased endurance, muscle and mental strength. Dehydration means there is not enough water in the body.
The body is approximately 60 to 70 percent water. Every cell, muscle and joint, the brain, the blood, the skin, every system in the body runs on water. It is considered the second most critical and essential physical need, and is second only to oxygen.
Body hydration, keeping the body fluids completely full or ‘topped off,’ is absolutely essential for proper training. Dehydration occurs when the body puts out or releases more water in the form of sweat, water vapor, etc. than it takes in.
Fourth Quarter Fatigue
Martial artists, fighters, and athletes experiencing “Fourth Quarter Fatigue” need to know it is often caused by dehydration, resulting in decreased cognitive and mental performance, decreased muscle strength, endurance, and muscle cramps. Dehydration, if left unchecked, can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, coma, and even death  . Recently, an Australian teenage Muay Thai fighter, 18 year old Jessica Lindsay, collapsed while going for a run the day before her fight. She died of severe dehydration while attempting to cut weight for the fight  .
Water Usage Within the Body
The body runs on water. Compare the effects of a car engine that is low on water and oil. The car breaks down quickly, if it runs at all, because of overheating. If there is not enough lubrication within moving parts (similar to body joints without enough water), pistons and other parts simply break down and stop functioning. The body is extremely similar in its need for water.
The body requires water to :
Water for Athletic Performance
Water is vitally important for athletic performance. Martial artists particularly utilize every muscle in the body. Active muscles burn water, and overheat the body, which then requires more water to cool it down. Think of water as a performance enhancer that’s very reasonably priced! For the serious athlete it’s critically important to stay hydrated. Good hydration means getting the right amount of pure water before, during, and after exercise.
Water regulates body temperature and keeps joints lubricated. It helps transport nutrients to give the body energy and keep it healthy. The body cannot perform at its highest level when dehydrated. Symptoms of fatigue, muscle cramps, confusion, dizziness, headache, and other serious dehydration signs may occur. It’s simple: studies have shown that athletes have a decrease in performance when dehydrated. Athletic energy and focus declines considerably and performance dive-bombs when dehydrated.
Many MMA and UFC Fighters are Severely Dehydrated Before Competitions
There are studies out now proving that many MMA and UFC athletes are severely restricting water intake before competitions in order to cut weight. This is totally reverse logic since dehydration will make or break you in the ring. If the body is dehydrated, the brain starts to shut down. Research shows that a hydrated brain has more active areas than a dehydrated one, meaning, completely hydrated fighters are sharper and think better on their feet.
Dead Within Days
It is possible to go three weeks without eating, but the body will expire within 2.5 to 7 days without water. How much water is required to maintain a fully hydrated body depends on many factors, including individual physiology, amount and types of exercise performed, duration and intensity of training, how often, along with local atmospheric conditions, i.e., how hot, humid, dry it is where one lives and/or trains.
The body is unable to store water, yet needs it kept at a consistent level in order to function properly. Water contains zero calories, but is considered an essential nutrient, because it makes up to 70 percent of the body’s composition.
Signs of Dehydration
Typically, first signs will be headache, nausea, weakness, confusion, muscle cramps, and lightheaded. Nobody wants to feel like this during training or competition! Dehydration is a serious issue that if left unchecked can quickly become an emergency. Dehydration makes heart rate increase, blood flow to the skin decrease, and body temperature rise because the body loses the ability to monitor and lower body temperature. Signs of dehydration vary, depending on circumstances, severity, and the individual.
Some typical signs of dehydration include :
There are physical illnesses that may result from dehydration. These heat illnesses occur because the body cools itself and controls temperature through sweating. When dehydration occurs, the body will try to conserve water by not sweating normally. An athlete’s muscles are heating the body through training, which normally leads to sweating in order to cool the body back down. The three heat related illness are: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. All three of these heat illnesses are serious.
Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms in the legs, arms, back, or stomach, and are the initial stage for heat stroke. Heat illness then progresses into heat exhaustion, with symptoms of feeling faint or weak, headache, nausea, low blood pressure, and fast heartbeat. Symptoms of heatstroke include fast heartbeat, high body temperature (104 degrees and up), flushed skin, can even include delirium, loss of consciousness, or seizures. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency that can lead to death and requires immediate medical aid.
Fight Almost Lost Due to Severe Dehydration
UFC fight of Aug. 3rd, 2013, between UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and Chan Sung Jung was almost lost due to Aldo’s severe dehydration. Oh sure, Aldo had other injuries like the broken foot he got in the first round (!), and by the end of the fight Jung also had a broken foot and dislocated shoulder. But, Aldo also went to the hospital for kidney stones, which research proves are commonly brought on by severe chronic dehydration of the type created by cutting weight .
Area Conditions Do Count
It requires quite a bit more water to remain hydrated when training intensely in the semi-arid Southwestern region of the U.S. where temperatures can easily soar to 115 degrees with 8 percent humidity, for instance, than it does to stay hydrated when training at a similarly intense level in the more temperate and humid Northeastern U.S. Or think about training in Death Valley, where average temperatures are in the triple digits, and in 2017 reached 127 degrees during the day in summer with low humidity.
Training outdoors there is regarded as a safety hazard because it is so desperately hot. It also matters whether training takes place indoors with air controlled conditions, or if it involves running up hiking trails in the mountains, or doing sandy beach kung fu. Always take into account the local area conditions, unless training inside with controlled temperatures.
7 signs of BPA toxicity include:
Homemade Energy Electrolyte Drinks
You can make your own sports/electrolyte drinks at home. Just be warned, they may not taste as good as what you buy in the stores. A home kitchen doesn’t have access to the chemical flavor additives the big companies use.
Most of these recipes use coconut water, mineral/vitamin drops, and sea salt. These are important to the method and cannot be switched out. Honey is added for both flavor and carbohydrates.
Coconut water has 600 mg of potassium, 60mg of magnesium, and 252 mg of sodium per cup in the form of chloride and sulfate salts . All of the electrolytes in this drink are easily assimilated in the body. Coconut water could be a sports drink on its own.
The mineral/vitamin drops add a few more nutrients, making the sports drink more rounded concerning nutrition. They aren’t necessary, but an easy way to get more vitamins and minerals into your diet. Concentrace is one brand.
The sea salt adds the remaining sodium, as the body can lose a gram of sodium in an hour’s workout. It also adds trace amounts of magnesium and sodium, depending on the source. Regular table salt or refined sea salt cannot be substituted, as these trace elements are removed.
Honey and natural maple syrup are natural sweeteners and supply some trace minerals. They aren’t necessary for the sports drink, but certainly adds flavor and texture to the fluid. Plus, they can give you a boost of energy from the carbs.
- Orange Sports Drink
- Watermelon Cooler
- Ginger Warming Drink
As you can see, the basic recipe stays the same, and the flavors vary. You can also try:
When to See a Doctor
You should see a doctor immediately if you have symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke. You should also see a doctor if you have symptoms of a rare condition caused by drinking too much, called hyponatremia. These include confusion, headache, vomiting, and swelling of the hands and feet.