Hydration — a practical guide for athletes

Hydration is many times, one of the most underestimated aspects of sports enthusiasts. Not being properly hydrated can have very real and quick negative impacts on your training.

Having your body well hydrated is critical to get the most out of your daily fitness regime and expedite recovery. The effects of significant dehydration can take hours and even days to recover from. Athletes should develop strategies to monitor and adapt an individual hydration plan according to changes in:
 
Intensity of training
Duration of training
Frequency of training
Fitness level
Environmental conditions (e.g., heat, altitude, plane travel, surgery, illness, hard training)

Performance can be negatively impacted by as little as 2 to 3% body weight loss from sweat (e.g., 1–2 kg for 68kg athlete)

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Lack of concentration
Early fatigue in training session
High perceived exertion in training
Trouble tolerating heat
Delayed recovery
Muscle cramps
Headaches
Nausea and vomiting
Heart rate elevated above normal response

Importance of Hydration on Performance

Being properly hydrated enhances the body’s ability to regulate temperature and “cool” you while avoiding unnecessary elevation in heart rate. At the same time, this improves recovery time from training and competition and minimizes the chance of muscle cramps. Last but not least we enhance mental function, decision making, concentration, motor control and support an efficient immune system.

Here are three indicators of dehydration. If you can check off two of these you are, likely, dehydrated.

1. Your morning urine is dark in color.
2. Your morning body weight is lower than expected.
3. Higher thirst than what you normally experience.

Fluid balance can take up to 24h to be restored after a dehydration event.

How high should my fluid intake be?

Hydration needs are highly individual but here are a few, general, guidelines as a starting point.

Remember the following and increase your fluid intake during:
Heat
Travel
Humidity
Hard Training
Illness
High Altitude

A little footnote. If you are a “salty sweater,” eat salty foods after training to replace sodium losses.

Monitor your Daily Hydration Status

Please use this handy chart and aim to land somewhere between 2 and 3 in the morning urine check. If you have a urine color of >4, you are dehydrated.

Check Body Weight Loss in percentage

Use this handy formula to see how much water you used during your exercise.

% Body Weight Loss = (weight before — weight after)/weight before

Example
(68.2–66.4)/68.2 = 2.6% lost in water weight during training. The goal would be to drink enough during training to minimize this effect.

Water versus Sport Drinks

Short answer, water. Water is the best fluid to consume, hands down and should be consumed throughout the day, during training and at meal times. If your training is exceeding 90 minutes, consider a sports drink to help replenish fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat and give you a quick energy source to sustain performance.

Simple way to increase your fluid intake

Carry a water bottle at all times to increase water consumption throughout the day.
Aim for a minimum of 500ml of water at all meals.
Fruits and veggies have high water content.
Drink milk.
Herbal tea.

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