Hydration for Sports Performance

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Did you know?
• Water makes up to 60% of the average person’s body weight
• You can use your urine colour as a guide measure your hydration levels
• Water improves cognitive function and reduces the risk of headaches
• Drink 0.5l of water post-exercise for 0.5kg of body weight lost during exercise
• Water reduces the risk of heat stroke in warm weather
• Water helps reduce muscle cramps and optimise performance
• Water helps to improve calorie control

As most of you will have heard before, the most common recommendation regarding water consumption is 8 x 8 oz cups per day. However, there is no exact number/amount of water that every person should be drinking every day, a lot of different factors have to be taken into consideration. These can include temperature, individual factors such as sweat rate, body weight, exercise intensity and duration and level of acclimatisation just to name a few.

Due to the individual variations in hydration recommendations it is important to know your own sweat rate and be able to monitor your hydration status via your urine colour.

How to determine your sweat rate:
This is the amount of sweat you lose in a workout. You should aim to check this at the start of every season if you play a sport, to get an idea of how you should hydrate your body around training for optimal performance.

  1. Weigh yourself (naked if possible) before training (e.g., 80kg)
  2. Train for 1 hour, tracking your fluid intake throughout the hour (e.g., 0.5l)
  3. Weigh yourself (again, naked if possible) after training (e.g., 79kg)
  4. To calculate your sweat rate just subtract your post-training weight from your pre-training rate and simply add in any fluids you consumed within the hour of training.

E.g., 80kg (pre-training) – 79kg (post-training) = 1kg (sweat loss) + 500ml or 500g (fluids consumed during training) = 1.5kg of sweat lost per hour therefore you should rehydrate with 1.5litres of fluids.

This is a great guideline for an individual to stick to when training in order to prevent dehydration and optimise performance.

Here’s an infograph I put together to keep it simple:

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To Monitor Hydration Status
The easiest and most common way to monitor hydration status is to look at urine colour. The more clear/light the colour, the more hydrated the individual is, the more dark/strong smelling the urine is, the more dehydrated the individual is.

One thing to keep in mind is that if an individual is consuming daily vitamins in supplement form, then this can have an affect on the colour and smell of their urine.

Pre-Workout Hydration
It is so important to start a training session well hydrated in order to reduce the risk of heat injury, to optimise performance and to maximise recovery. As stated above, monitor your urine before training to make sure it is light in colour, indicating that you are well hydrated before exercising. If your urine is darker in colour pre-training then it is important to consume around 3-5ml of fluid per kg of bodyweight in the 2 hours beforehand.

Mid Workout Hydration
Whilst you are training, the main goal is to match your sweat loss with fluid intake. It is important to have an idea of what your sweat rate is in order to minimise the decrease in performance and increase in body temperature. Most athletes only ever replace around 2/3 of the water they lose in sweat during training, if even that.

What to Drink Mid-Workout
Water on it’s own is more than optimal for training sessions lasting 1 hour or less. Exceptions may include those who sweat excessively whilst training, train in warm weather or those who do not begin their training session well hydrated. For these individuals, and for training that lasts over 1 hour long, a fluid with added electrolytes are recommended. The main electrolyte in sweat is sodium.
Adding a carb source of 6-8% concentration to your fluids will help with a greater absorption of sodium and water into the blood from the gastrointestinal system. The added carbohydrates can also provide added energy for training sessions of 60-90 mins. These include the well-known drinks such as gatorade and lucozade sport etc.
For athletes who are keeping an eye on their body composition and calorie intake, it is important to consider these carbohydrate drinks in their overall daily calorie intake as they DO contain calories of course.

Post-Workout Hydration
Taking all of the above into account, it is still common for athletes to finish a training session dehydrated to some degree. It’s recommended that athletes consume around 1litre of water for every kg of body weight lost during training. It is also important to keep in mind that any meal consumed post-exercise will also contribute to rehydration as all foods have some amount of water in them.
Adding a pinch of salt to your food post-training or simply having an electrolyte based drink will help assist in the restoration of electrolytes in the body, as well as increasing your thirst levels which will in turn encourage greater hydration.

Final Considerations:
• Test your sweat rate before every season or every 3-4 months
-The time of year will affect the temperature/humidity levels, which affect sweat rate
-You have a higher sweat rate the more trained you are (this allows you to cool down faster), thus affecting your sweat rate the better trained you are
• Always carry a water bottle around with you, preferably one that has volume indicators to show you how much/little you have drank at any given time
• Things that affect the amount of fluids an athlete consumes:
a. taste
b. temperature
c. electrolyte composition
d. availability
e. colour
f. bottles that promote consumption (e.g., wide mouth bottle)

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