Hydration is a very important area of the dietary needs of anyone partaking in any exercise activities. It is important to get enough fluids before competition and training, but also important to re-hydrate after exercise to aid recovery.
Each day we need to replace about two liters of fluid to balance general body losses – like urine and evaporative breathing – even before sweat losses during training are taken into account. When the body heats up, production and evaporation of sweat helps to reduce body temperature. Sweat rates vary between individuals, and increase with harder works loads and hotter environments.
Think of your body as a car with a radiator, if you don’t keep the radiator full your car over heats and will break down or run poorly. Same goes for your body, if you don’t stay well hydrated.
There is a gradual reduction in performance, physical and mental, as the degree of dehydration increases.
Fluid needs are important to your competition strategies, so start developing good drinking habits in advance. Look forward to better training when you are better hydrated. Good luck – or even thirst – are not the basis of a good hydration plan, be organized and drink plenty of fluid over the day.
Strategies to replace fluids over the day
- Make sure that you drink at each meal. Don’t overlook water as a great choice.
- Take extra care in hot and humid weather, you will need to increase your drinking opportunities.
- Keep a supply of fluids on hand during the day. Carry your own water bottle so you can get a drink wherever you are.
- Keep a drink handy at a desk or station where you work.
Rehydrate quickly and thoroughly after a session. Remember that you will continue to lose fluid during recovery through urine and continued sweating. You need to drink 1.5 times the amount lost over the next 1-2 hours to achieve good hydration (E.g. If you are 1 kg lighter after a session, you will need to drink 1500ml to rehydrate).
Get a feel for sweat losses during your activity, and how well you replace these. If you weigh yourself before and after a session, you are measuring fluid losses only. Every 1 kg of weight lost = 1 liter of fluid. Try to keep fluid loss to a minimum over a session by drinking as often as practical.
During an event or game
Most important tip during an event is fluid intake. Hopefully you have stayed well hydrated during the day with plenty of fluid intake, to take some pressure off drinking huge volumes during a competition. There is a gradual reduction in performance as the degree of dehydration increases.
Tips to remember:
- Try to consume water at every opportunity possible and practical, i.e. when there are breaks in a game.
- Have your own water bottle and monitor how much you drink.
- Drink to your comfort level, you can experience stomach upsets if you consume too much.
- In events longer than 1 hour there may be benefits to consuming some carbohydrates with your drink, such as a sports drink.
- Keeping fluids cool may encourage greater consumption.