The Importance of Hydration
Whether you are a professional athlete or a recreational park runner, the importance of adequate hydration is still the same. And surprisingly, despite knowing the significance of water in our bodies, many of us do not seriously consider the impacts of poor hydration on our bodies and our performance.
Our hydration status during both training and competition can affect both physical and mental performance with a deficit of only 2-3% of total body weight being shown to cause a significant decrease in performance capacity. Fluid in the body is utilised in a number of different important functions included heat dissipation, joint lubrication and nutrient transport. If you are not adequately hydrated, particularly during exercise, you may experience symptoms such as tiredness, dizziness or muscle cramps.
Determine the right amount of water to drink before, during and after training or a competition can be tricky and can differ significantly depending on the individual and factors such as weather, activity duration and intensity. Studies have collated some general topline guidelines to follow for athletes to try and ensure adequate hydration, outlined below:
- Individuals should look to consume around 500ml of fluid approximately 2 hours before undertaking exercise. This allows time for any excess fluid to be excreted.
- A further 125-250ml should be consumed immediately before exercise
- Aim to drink small amounts of fluid regularly during exercise, aiming for 125-250ml every 10-20 minutes. To maintain optimal performance aim to replace around 80% of sweat lost during exercise
- Individuals should aim to consume 150% of the fluid that was lost during exercise. The easiest way to calculate this is to weigh yourself before and after exercise – 1kg of weight loss roughly equates to 1L of fluid loss.
- Aim to consume 500ml immediately post-exercise and remaining at regular intervals afterwards.
Monitoring thirst, particularly first thing in the morning, and also urine colour is a great way to regularly determine hydration status that is less time intensive that regular weight measurements.
If you are undertaking a session that is longer than 60 minutes, you may also want to consider supplementing your during exercise beverage with electrolytes to replenish those lost through sweat. The easiest way to do this is through the consumption of a sports drink where the required electrolytes have been pre-added. However, do be wary as may sports drinks are often high in added sugars and may contain more electrolytes than you require. My recommendation would be to purchase an electrolyte powder and add this to water as and when required depending on the particular session.
Planning your hydration plan can seem of little importance when compared with other aspects of your nutrition and fitness strategies, however it is ultimately one of the most important factors that contributes to overall performance. If the guidance given above seems daunting, aim to simply consume adequate fluid throughout the day to keep you adequately hydrated for training and competitions.