Drinking water, something we have done since birth right? So yeah, we all know when we are doing something physical we get thirsty and pound water, or naturally when we feel the urge to get a drink we typically need water to quench that thirst. Did you know there is a very right and very wrong way to be hydrating? (Strange huh) When being active, it is crucial to your performance to be drinking water the correct way. Did you know there is a test you can do to be positive about how much you should be hydrating? Well, if you didn’t then I am excited to share this tip that will increase your overall performance and recovery time, and as an athlete that’s priceless!
Let’s understand what benefits being properly hydrated give us.
When you consume water properly it has a long list of benefits that go hand in hand, here is a few:
- Helps regulate body temperature- This allows your body to keep from overheating.
- Assists in delivering glucose (sugar) to the muscles- This process allows your body to deliver energy to your muscles faster which results in a better performance.
- Helps remove toxins and waste from the body- When you are hydrated it makes eliminating waste our body doesn’t want much easier (this one explains itself in the title)
- Helps to maintain blood volume for muscle oxygenation- When you are properly hydrated, your blood volume is up which allows your heart to pump blood to your body with less effort, in turn you have more energy, won’t fatigue as quickly, and can keep up a faster pace for longer.
- Speeds Recovery- When your body is hydrated, all of these factors above allow your body to recover quicker after a hard workout.
What can happen if you do not drink enough?
Well, pretty much the opposite as what is listed above, but let’s give this some context.
- Loss of blood volume- when this happens you can experience fatigue, your heart works harder to pump the correct amount of blood to your body, and ultimately your body has to slow down which hinders your overall performance.
- Loss of performance- This is pretty obvious, but why? Combined with what goes on with low blood volume, when you are dehydrated your body can’t deliver glucose to the muscles as quickly which makes you feel lethargic, you are much more susceptible to overheating when you are dehydrated also.
- Heat Stroke/ Exhaustion- At this stage things become very serious, when experiencing heat exhaustion you can feel dizzy, nauseous, and experience headaches. Your body will stop sweating to preserve water which causes your body temperature go up, eventually you can pass out during this phase.
- Death- If heat exhaustion goes too far, it can result in death. (Make sure you drink adequate water so we can avoid this)
The negatives of drinking too much too quick.
Consuming too much water during training or a competition is possible, and can have some effects that you definitely don’t want to experience. This is known as Hyponatremia, you can click here to read about Ian Sharman’s experience with Hyponatremia during his first Marathon Des Sables. Also, many people who run races and don’t carry hydration with them wait until aid stations and drink a larger amount of water at once which would be less beneficial than actually carrying the proper amount.
- Weight gain during exercise
- Feeling bloated
- feel fluids sloshing in stomach
- Swollen hands/feet due to low sodium
- Dizziness or Nausea
- Change in urination and sweating frequency/amount
So what things affect the quantity of fluids needed?
- The higher the altitude, higher the temperature, higher the humidity, and higher the intensity, means you should be consuming more water.
- If you are at a higher fitness level, you can consume a bit less fluids than someone who is not up to that level yet.
So how do you know the perfect amount of fluids to intake?
This is the golden question, it may seem like going off the way you feel is a smart decision but in reality if you wait to drink water until you are thirsty it’s too late, you are already dehydrated. So how do you know? It is something called the Sweat Rate Test. The sweat rate test helps you to gauge how much fluid you lose during a training or competition regiment and allows you to drink water accordingly, so let’s take a look at the steps:
- Be normally hydrated going into the test- Obviously this would be critical to the test results, don’t drink more or less fluids than you typically would when beginning the sweat rate test.
- Execute test in similar training/racing conditions- You would want to do this test in the area you train the most, or if you have a race, be sure to try and create the same conditions so that your test is accurate.
- Take your weight before the training- This should be pretty straight forward, but weight yourself and write down what you see.
- Run 1 hour – no liquid in OR out- Don’t drink for an hour and don’t pee for an hour.
- Take post workout weight- After your workout or run, dry off with a towel to get rid of the sweat and take your weight.
The difference between pre and post workout weight is the water lost that needs to be replenished.
So what all does this test tell me?
Well aside from knowing what you need to replenish, this test allows you to plan your hydration during your race or training. You can use the volume of your bottle to make sure you are sipping the right fluids per hour. It is ideal to start sipping small amounts more often and before you are thirsty to prevent from dehydrating or over drinking. 20-60 ounces per hour depending on sweat rate is recommended, however 20-30 ounces per hour is most common and a more specific range. At the end of the day the best way to know is to perform a sweat rate test on yourself and know your body and what it needs. Taking recommendations without doing the test for yourself can be very inaccurate as not everyone is on the same level of fitness and as we discussed above, that can have an effect on how much water each person needs.
The best thing you can take from this is that by consuming hydration properly, small amounts of water more frequently. You can see a performance increase that is absolutely free! As an athlete, doing something to increase the way I perform at no cost is imperative. I hope you find use from this and it helps you push your limits to new levels. Happy Adventuring!