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Importance of Proper Water Consumption

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Big Mac staying cool and hydrated among the cacti in southern AZ. Hörst photo.

Importance of “Cameling Up” Before You Climb

Whether you are training indoors, climbing outdoors, or just taking a rest day, sustaining proper hydration is essential for optimal performance, injury prevention, and accelerating recovery. Studies have shown that even slight dehydration results in reduced concentration, enhanced fatigue, and a drop in maximum strength. Clearly, sustaining proper hydration throughout the day is as important as any other aspect of your optimal sport nutrition program.

Dr. Kristine Clark, director of sports nutrition at Penn State’s Center for Sports Medicine, says that “even a 1 to 2 percent drop in water will cause problems in performance.” The earliest symptoms of mild dehydration are a loss of concentration and enhanced fatigue. Clark adds that “a 3 percent drop in water level can create headaches, cramping, dizziness.” Furthermore, a recent study has shown that dehydration leading to just a 1.5 percent drop in body weight resulted in a statistically significant drop in maximum strength.

In a sport as stressful as climbing, dehydration also increases your chance of a joint or tendon injury. Consider that proper hydration facilitates transport of nutrients to the cells, helps protect tissues from injury, and maintains joint lubrication. Therefore, for the purpose of injury prevention, maintaining proper hydration as you train or climb is as important as a proper warm-up.

So how much water should you consume? As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to prehydrate (“camel-up” as it’s called) before you go to the gym or head out climbing by drinking two tall glasses of water. Follow this with a minimum of an eight-ounce glass every hour throughout the day. This would total two quarts of water consumed over an eight-hour period on the rocks. This is a bare minimum amount. Climbing on a ho summer day, however, would roughly double this requirement. That means carrying four quarts of water with you for an eight-hour day of climbing. Of course, I doubt you know of very many, if any, climbers who carry three or four quarts of liquid to the crags—thus, the mass of climbers are unknowingly detracting from their ability and increasing injury risk due to mild dehydration (or worse).


Copyright 2008 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.