Learning how to hydrate is just as important as learning how to eat to fuel your body. Our bodies are over 70% water, and the majority of that water is found in our muscles! Therefore, dehydration can noticeably impact your body’s responsiveness, energy levels and strength.
Did you know that studies have shown just losing 2% of your body weight in fluid through sweating can cause your heart to work harder to pump blood through your body? Consequences of this can include feeling sluggish, shortness of breath, and even heart palpitations. Some athletes need more water than others, and each person must hydrate differently to meet their needs.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is defined as losing 2% of your body weight or more from sweating. Even losing 1% water can significantly impair your physical performance and slow oxygen delivery. Dehydration also takes away from an athlete’s mental edge, physical ability, and can be deadly if your body loses its ability to cool itself down and heat illness occurs.
How Can I Tell if I am Dehydrated?
Your body has many ways of telling you that it is dehydrated, and it is important to listen! Frequent headaches, feeling tired, dry skin/ mouth, feeling irritable or and being unable to sleep are all signs that you may be dehydrated. You can also determine your hydration status by looking at your urine. Check out this great infographic on what the color of your pee means!
What Should I Hydrate With?
Water is optimal fluid for maintaining hydration. It is easily absorbed, and easily accessible. It is adequate for exercise sessions lasting up to 60 minutes.
A general rule of thumb is that sports beverage should be consumed for high intensity exercise (i.e. increased heart rate, increased rate of breathing) lasting longer than 60 minutes. Sports beverages provided fast-digesting carbohydrates and electrolytes to help prevent muscle fatigue, dehydration and cramping. A good goal would be to try to consume 15 grams of carbohydrates for each 30-minute interval that exceeds 60 minutes during your workout.
Remember to check the serving size on the nutrient label of your sports beverage! For example, some sports beverages have serving sizes as “8 fl. oz”, while the bottle contains 16 fl. oz.
During your training, experiment with different combinations of drinks. Here are some examples to try:
- Mix Gatorade and water at different proportions to achieve your goal amount of carbohydrate
- Alternate drinking plain water and undiluted Gatorade
- Try Perpetuem (a sports drink that has protein as well)
If your stomach feels uneasy after drinking a sports beverage such as Gatorade, you can try coconut water. It’s a natural source of carbs and electrolytes and may be easier on your stomach.
How much should I drink to Hydrate?
It is crucial to hydrate before, during and after exercising.
Drink 8-16 fl. oz 2 hours before your workout
Drink 4-8 fl oz. for every 15 minutes of exercise (if you are only working out for 60 minutes, it is OK to consume this amount afterwards).
Drink 8 fl oz. or each pound of water weight lost during exercise. A general recommendation is 8-16 fl. oz.
- Drink at least 1 cup of non-caffeinated fluid first thing in the morning (sorry, coffee doesn’t count here!)
- Sip fluids throughout the day. Carrying a water bottle is a good way to remind you to drink more.
- Don’t wait until you get thirsty, it may not be indicator of fluid needs.
- Sip cool beverages (not cold), they are more easily absorbed than warm ones.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables! They are a great way to get extra water into your diet.
- Drinking low calorie, low sugar beverages such as flavored water may help you drink more throughout the day. Try to minimize the amount of soda, alcohol or coffee your drink. They can act as a diuretic (they make you pee) and you don’t absorb all of the fluid.
Bored with Water?
Take a look at these 5 Water Alternatives by looking at this popular blog post.
For more information on Sports Nutrition contact our Registered Dietitians by calling 301-474-2499.