By Dr. Craig Nixon
A basic component of good nutrition and general health is hydration. Considering our bodies are made up of almost 60% water, it isn’t a surprise that exercise performance is impaired when an athlete is dehydrated by as little as 2% of their body weight. Let’s consider how to hydrate, the consequences of dehydration, and monitoring.
The goal of performance hydration is to begin a race or training session in a well hydrated state. The next challenge is to maintain a proper hydrated state throughout the session. This is to not only maximize performance but, to increase the ability to recover and decrease injuries and cramps. The result of under-hydration goes beyond a decrease in performance. Dehydration causes an increase in core temperature and heart rate, a decrease in blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps—need I say more?
At this point, your questions should be: “How should I hydrate and how do you monitor hydration status?” Hydration timing should include:
Pre-training: 16-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours prior and an additional 8 ounces 15-20 minutes before starting.
During the training: drink 4-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes.
Evaluating your hydration status can be as simple as monitoring urine color. Clear to pale yellow urine is indicative of optimal hydration status. Dark urine, the apple juice look, is a definite sign of under-hydration. Another common way to evaluate your personal hydration demands while training is to:
- Get a naked body weight before training.
- Warm-up for 5-10 minutes, then bike or run for an hour at or close to race pace. Keep track of your fluid intake by ounces.
- Immediately after the session, remove your clothes, wipe of the sweat, and take another weight. Subtract your post-weight from your pre-weight. The loss of a pound equals 16 ounces of fluid shortage. It’s important to note that this is not a decrease in fat. Fat loss just doesn’t happen that fast—sorry. Also, if you weighed more at the end, it’s an over-hydration issue and needs to be adjusted in your next workout. Over-hydration can be a serious issue and will be discussed at another time.
Despite all the claims and choices of performance drinks, water is still the gold standard in races and workouts lasting sixty minutes. Once we go over, there are new demands on the body for electrolyte replacement—but, that will be discussed in our next blog.
From PK’s, stay hydrated, fit, and perform!