What happens to our muscles when we don't drink enough water?


“Water is the driving force in nature.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Summer is here, and dancers will constantly be encouraged to stay hydrated. Past blog posts have discussed which beverages are best to drink while exercising.

But why do we need to stay hydrated? 
And what happens inside our bodies when we become dehydrated?


Our bodies are 60% water and water can be found:
  • in the tears that keep our eyes moist and flush out dirt
  • in our saliva and our digestive system to help break down foods and absorb nutrients
  • in our blood to help transport nutrients and oxygen
  • in the synovial fluid in our joints to keep our bones from grinding against each other
  • around our brains and spinal cords where it provides cushioning
  • in our sweat which helps keep us cool and maintains our body temperature
  • in our urine where it eliminates toxins from our bodies
  • in our muscle cells which rely upon it to function properly     

        We lose water through our tears, our sweat and everyone time we use the bathroom but through other less obvious ways as well. We lose 250 milliliters a day by simply breathing. People can survive several weeks without food but only one week without water.

        People often use thirst as a signal that they are becoming dehydrated. Thirst in an unreliable indicator - when you grow thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. Other symptoms of dehydration are chills, clammy skin, an increased heart rate, nausea, headache, dizziness and shortness of breath.

        Since dancers rely upon their muscles, it is important to know exactly what happens in the muscle cells when the body is lacking water. During any type of physical exercise or training, muscles experience minor tears, or microtraumas. When muscles contract, water flows from the blood into the muscles. This water is used when the body begins to repair the microtraumas that have occurred during exercise. Through muscular protein synthesis (MPS) damaged protein is moved out of the muscles, and stronger, denser, new versions of the damaged proteins are created.

        When the body is dehydrated, instead of the water traveling into the muscles from the blood, the blood begins to steal water from the muscle cells. Since MPS uses water, the creation of new protein slows down, muscle cells begin to shrivel, and the dancer will experience muscular fatigue.

        According to the American College of Sports Medicine, muscular fatigue increases the strain upon the body and the dancer or athlete needs to exert more effort to perform exercises which leads to an increased stress load upon the already often overworked body.

          It is for these reasons that dancers need to stay a step ahead of their bodies, drink proactively, and never allow themselves to grow dehydrated.