Anyone who has ever played a sport, been on a team, or done a workout program has heard at some point that hydration is important. However, with our busy lives, we often have to prioritize and sometimes we forget these things.
Did you know that suboptimal hydration can significantly affect your athletic performance and your ability to fully recover?
On the whole, there is a lack of knowledge of what, how often, and how much water you should be drinking. The fact that fluid and sodium loss during activity BOTH are significant factors isn’t known or understood. Fluid and micronutrients play a significant role in the basic processes completed by the body and furthermore for handling the stress placed on the body during physical activity.
Many people rely on their sense of thirst as a marker of hydration status. The danger in taking this tactic is that using thirst alone will often make it so that by the time you do drink water, you are already dehydrated. This is even truer for athletes, from the recreational to the elite level. For many, they begin training or even competing in a dehydrated state.
I’m going to share with you scientific data to support why you should hydrate properly for all of your training sessions and athletic performances.
“Athletes who lose as little as 1-2% of their body mass through sweat loss exhibit an increase in heart rate, core temperature, muscle glycogen use, as well as a decrease in cardiac output, cognitive awareness, anaerobic power, and time to exhaustion” (Corcoran, Ayotte).
A study was done on collegiate level athletes to determine if a designated hydration plan would help athletic performance. A comparison was done for an athlete’s normal hydration plan (what they do on their own daily) and a prescribed hydration plan. The prescribed hydration amount was formulated based upon a designated 45-minute training session duration of moderate to hard intensity and on the measured loss of both sodium and fluid. Care was also taken to make sure that athletes were not overhydrating or at risk for exercise-induced hyponatremia.
“Athletes were instructed to drink at 15 min intervals at a volume of fluid that prevents 2% body weight loss as well as any weight gain” (Corcoran, Ayotte).
Athletes following the prescribed hydration plan measured a faster post-training (10-15 mins after training) heart rate recovery than those who followed their normal hydration plan. Also, measurements of a Standing Long Jump were done pre-training and post-training for groups that followed their respective hydration plans. Those following a normal hydration plan jumped 2-2.5 inches shorter in their post-training jump. Alternatively, those following the prescribed hydration plan jumped 2-3 inches farther in their post-training jump compared to their pre-training jump.
Finally, a measurement of awareness was done for both groups with the results showing the athlete’s using a prescribed hydration plan demonstrating significant improvement in their ability to track objects.
Reviewing this data, it’s clear that proper hydration affects various parts of sport and training ranging from the actual performance itself to how an athlete recovers from their training. It’s also important to note that not everyone needs the same amount of hydration each day because each of our bodies is different and therefore needs different amounts of macro and micronutrients.
With that said, basic guidelines for daily hydration are to make sure that you have had at least 16-20 ounces of water 30 minutes or more before your activity. If you are following a weekly training program where you will be working for at least 30-60 minutes, you should make sure you are continuing to hydrate throughout the day, every day. During sweat loss, you’re losing more than just water. Sodium is lost during this process which if not replaced can lead to dehydration and the negative effects associated. A chronic cycle of dehydration can ultimately lead to poor performance and even injury.
As summer approaches, this is the perfect time to make sure that you are well-hydrated because many athletes will sweat more in warm and hot temperatures. In the heat, your body will have to work harder to cool itself off and when dehydrated, that becomes even more difficult. During dehydration, your body’s blood volume decreases and means that your hard-working muscles are not receiving as much oxygen as they need. You may get fatigued more quickly and your body will have difficulty clearing out the by-products created during training. So, you’ll be sore, tired, and maybe a little grumpy, too! The moral of this story is HYDRATE for PERFORMANCE & HYDRATE for LIFE!
Ayotte Jr., David and Corcoran, Michael P. “Individualized Hydration Plans Improve Performance Outcomes for Collegiate Athletes Engaging in In-season Training.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2018, 15:27,
3 Quick Tips to Improve Your Hydration
- Snag yourself a fancy water bottle – most likely, if you dig your sparkle-pink or Superman-themed water bottle, you’ll want to keep it around. Keeping it handy makes your water so close, you can almost taste it! My Faves:
- Hydro Flask
- Remind yourself – If your cellphone is basically part of your anatomy you might as well make it work for you. Use hydration Apps like “Daily Water Tracker”, “Hydro Coach”, or “WaterMinder” to make sure you remember to drink.
- Flavor Fave – add some flavor to your water while adding healthy electrolytes to return what’s lost during activity. My Top Picks:
- NUUN – Tablets
- Ultima Replenisher – Powder (0 Carbs, 0 Sugar-sweetened with Stevia)
- Lemon, Cucumber, Honey, & Mint – Combine or Use Just a Few!
- Liquid I.V. Hydration – Powder (Contains a little sugar and carbs, which can be useful before a workout)