Hydration Are you drinking enough?

In order to avoid dehydration, an athlete needs to drink sufficient fluid to match their sweat loss. A generic fluid replacement plan can not be advised as the amount of sweat lost is highly individual, being governed by various factors such as environment, length and intensity of exercise, metabolic rate and even genetics. As such, the amount of water needed to remain in fluid balance is different for every athlete and situation. The American College of Sports Medicine (2007) recommends that hydration needs vary between individuals and under different environments.

Their main message is that the goal of drinking during exercise is to prevent excessive (>2% body weight loss from water deficit) dehydration and excessive changes in electrolyte balance to avert compromised performance. By estimating sweat rate during exercise, an athlete can gauge the amount of fluid lost and therefore have the ability to be guided on how to match losses during exercise. Sweat rate can vary from day-to-day and if you are serious about determining your fluid requirements, you can estimate your sweat rate under different conditions and exercise intensities. Methods include tracking pre- and post-body mass or simply checking urine colour.

Goals for hydration
  • If you stay hydrated during the day, you will start your exercise hydrated
  • Rehydrate after performing to replace fluid lost through sweat during exercise
  • Drinking during exercise is not always necessary, but if you are doing a long session or it is particularly hot, sweat rate will be increased, therefore, taking on fluids during activity will help prevent dehydration and symptoms related to it.
  • Follow a personalized plan. Fluid requirements are highly individual.
  • DO NOT drink at rates great than sweat loss.
Top Tips for race day
  • Start the race hydrated, having little and often during the morning (300-600ml)
  • For short duration (under 1hr) of low to moderate intensity, fluid during exercise isn’t always necessary, if you want to drink, water is best.
  • For longer duration (over 1hr) sports drinks are ideal as they not only hydrate well due to added electrolytes, but they also provide carbohydrate
  • Sodium should be included in fluids that are lasting longer than 1-2 hours where sweat loss has been high.
  • In endurance races, drink early and taking ‘little and often’ is better than large doses
  • Do not over drink, weight gain after exercise shows an increased risk for hyponatremia
  • If it is hotter than you are used to on race day, be prepared to slow your pace, as drinking more fluid won’t necessarily cool you down
  • After the race you need to drink 150 % of fluid lost (if 1kg weight is lost, you need to drink 1.5 litres) over the next one to two hours and then little and often through the remainder of the day.

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Created with images by technicolor76 - "water drops" • 422737 - "asphalt sports shoes start position" • Dirklaudio - "Gocce D'Acqua (Water Drops)"

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