Hydration for athletes chart That’s importance of the body’s water balance. The importance of water for life is well known, but have you ever wondered why? Drinking enough water throughout the day helps regulate body temperature, hydrates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth, helps protect organs, delivers nutrients and oxygen to cells, and performs many other functions. Without water and proper hydration of the body, many of these processes are not possible.
In this article we will discuss the importance of hydration for effective training, how much water a person needs, the signs of inadequate water intake, and tips for maintaining water balance.
The importance of hydration for athletes in body's water balance
Water represents about 50-70% of our body weight. When we exercise and start to sweat, this balance can change.
Sweating is crucial for cooling down and maintaining a stable body temperature.2,3 But if you don’t consume enough fluids before and during strenuous exercise, you may not be able to replenish the fluids lost in sweat quickly enough. This can lead to hypohydration – loss of water in the body.
Hypohydration during exercise can be dangerous because it causes decreased blood volume and blood flow to the skin. Dehydration affects cognitive and physical performance when exercising
Plan for optimal hydration for athletes chart
To avoid dehydration, it is important to drink before, during and after your workout. Let’s discuss an optimal hydration plan.
Remember that these recommendations are indicative, as hydration status can be affected by many other variables, including sweating rate, water intake, outside temperature, and intensity, duration and type of exercise.
Keeping your water balance is important before your workout. If you start exercising in a state of hypohydration, blood flow may decrease, which can impair sweating. If the body cannot sweat, the risk of heat exhaustion increases as the body cannot cool down.
When you are about to go to the gym, drink 5-7 ml of water per kilogram of body weight in the four hours before you are going to workout. For a 150lb (about 70kg) person, this equates to almost 2 glasses of water. If your urine is dark in colour or your body does not produce it, drink an additional 3-5 ml of water per kilogram of bodyweight in the two hours before your workout.
Refresh your body before a workout and hydration test for athletes
In addition to proper hydration, it is also important to eat a proper diet. Carbohydrate intake at the rate of 1-4g per kilo of bodyweight in the 1-4 hours before training will provide you with enough energy for your workout.
Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for muscle contractions, so it’s important to make sure your glycogen (i.e. carbohydrate) stores are full.6 A peanut butter and jam sandwich, granola, an energy bar or some fruit are some quick and easy pre-workout snacks you should always have on hand. Hydration for athletes chart
Watch your sweat
Difficult, high-intensity exercise can leave your body very sweaty, especially in the hot summer months. It is important to control perspiration and replenish lost fluid through proper hydration.
Sweating more than 2% of body weight should be avoided. For anaerobic activities such as running, cycling and hiking, sweating more than 3-4% of body weight impairs strength and endurance.
Calculate your personal fluid needs
We all have different bodies, and some sweat more than others. Your recommended fluid intake depends on how much you sweat. The amount you sweat, or the rate at which you sweat, is affected by a number of factors. The rate at which you sweat is directly related to how hard you exercise – the harder you exercise, the more you sweat.
To calculate sweat rate, use the equation below:
[weight loss (kg) + fluid intake (l)] / exercise time (h) = sweat rate (l/h).
Once you know your sweat rate, you’ll know how much fluid you need to drink per hour to replenish your fluid loss through sweat.
Interval and endurance training over long periods of time can lead to profuse sweating. Body weight, hot or humid environments, type of sport, clothing or equipment can also affect how quickly you sweat.
Do not wait until you are thirsty – during exercise the thirst response can be delayed and relying on the sensation of thirst can provoke hypohydration.
The importance of taking electrolytes
Sweat not only contains water, but also electrolytes. Because your body loses electrolytes when you sweat, you may need to replenish them during intense exercise. Electrolytes are needed to maintain water and pH balance, deliver nutrients to cells, remove waste products from cells, and keep nerves, muscles, heart and brain functioning properly. Those who sweat profusely or exercise for longer than two hours need to replenish important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which escape in high concentrations through sweat.6,7 Proper electroly replenishing electrolytes during exercise also helps prevent muscle cramping. When a person loses sodium through sweat, they are at increased risk of muscle cramping.
Replenish glycogen stores
If you exercise intensively for more than one hour, glycogen stores are depleted. Glycogen stores can be replenished by eating or drinking easily digestible carbohydrates. When glycogen stores are replenished with enough carbohydrates, usually in the form of glucose, the brain and muscles continue to work efficiently, allowing for successful completion of the workout. Hydration for athletes chart
If a moderate to vigorous workout lasts more than one hour, try to consume 30-60 g of carbohydrate with food or beverages every subsequent hour throughout the workout.6 Most sports drinks contain about 6-8 g of carbohydrate per litre, making them an excellent option for replenishing glycogen and fluid stores.
The combination of electrolytes and carbohydrates in a sports drink helps to oxidise carbohydrates, maintain blood glucose levels and balance electrolytes.5 Carbohydrates add sweetness to sports drinks, which may encourage you to drink more and maintain water balance.
Remember that plain water is fine for most workouts of less than two hours.
Avoid heat injuries
Sweating during exercise is the body’s main way of cooling down. When the body cannot cool down properly and its temperature rises faster than it has time to cool down, heat injuries can occur.
Heat injuries include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat injuries can significantly affect athletic performance and can also lead to vomiting, fainting, headache, confusion and even death.
Deaths caused by heatstroke are preventable and proper hydration is the main preventive measure in this case.9 Adequate fluid intake, electrolyte replenishment and vigilance for possible signs of dehydration will help prevent heatstroke.
Hydration and nutrition after exercise
Fluids should also be consumed at the end of your workout. Replenish every 1-1.5 kg of body weight lost with the same amount of water or a sports drink, but only in litres.
Ideally, a sports drink should contain sodium to replenish electrolyte losses, especially if you sweat a lot during exercise. Drinking fluids containing sodium after exercise can also help rehydrate by stimulating thirst and keeping fluids in the body. Hydration for athletes chart
Studies show that fluid intake after exercise improves recovery, ensures proper water balance, reduces fatigue and alleviates symptoms of dehydration. Try to hydrate well within four hours of exercise to fully replenish fluid loss.
In addition to fluid and electrolyte intake after exercise, you should also consume protein and carbohydrates properly for recovery. A minimum of 20-25g of protein and 1-1.2g of carbohydrates per kilo of bodyweight should be consumed within two hours of exercise.
Protein intake after exercise helps preserve and build muscle, while carbohydrate intake helps replenish glycogen stores in skeletal muscles. Taking carbohydrates and protein together can help reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
Symptoms of dehydration
To avoid hypohydration and its adverse side effects, it’s important to recognise the symptoms of fluid deficiency in yourself and others. Early signs and symptoms of hypohydration may include the following:
- general discomfort
If ignored, these symptoms can worsen and lead to excessive thirst, gastrointestinal cramps, diarrhoea, fever and chills. Even moderate levels of dehydration can increase physiological stress, such as increased heart rate and decreased minute volume of circulation, making it difficult for the body to heat. Maintaining hydration levels between -1% and +1% of body weight helps the body better regulate temperature, which prevents heat injury and promotes optimal sports performance.
The best drinks and snacks for post-workout recovery
Water is usually the best drink to hydrate before a workout, but during or after a workout you may need sports drinks or snacks in addition to water. Sports drinks, energy gels, fruit, granola or bars during exercise are quick and easy snacks that contain carbohydrates and sodium. If you exercise for more than one or two hours, consume snacks or drinks containing carbohydrates and electrolytes to recharge your body and maintain electrolyte balance.
You may need to plan ahead to ensure your body is properly rehydrated and recharged during exercise:
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you so that you always have enough fluids on hand.
- Establish a routine for fluid intake during training. This is especially important if you are competing. It is always best to avoid anything new and untested on race day.
- Consider clothing and environmental conditions: hot, dry weather means you’ll need more fluids to maintain your water balance.
- Factor in the intensity of your workout and how fast you sweat: the higher the intensity or duration of your workout, and the more you sweat, the more fluids you should be drinking.
To save yourself a few extra bucks, it’s easy to make sports drinks at home. Plus, you’ll always have a drink on hand when you need it. Try this simple sports drink recipe:
Recipe for a homemade sports drink
Mix the following ingredients together:
- quarter cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- quarter cup hot water
- quarter cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 3.5 cup cold water
One cup (8 oz or 227 g) of this sports drink contains 50 calories, 12 g of carbohydrates and 110 mg of sodium, the equivalent of a sports drink from a shop.
Light post-workout snacks
Choose a snack with enough protein and carbohydrates after a workout to help maintain or build muscle and replenish energy reserves. Here are some of the options available:
- Protein bars
- Protein shakes
- Greek yoghurt with granola and fruit
- Chunks of beef jerky and fruit
- Nuts and dried fruit
hydration for athletes chart performance
Remember that hypohydration and its negative effects can be prevented. Establish a routine for rehydration and possible snacking while exercising. If you will be doing long and intense physical activities, such as cycling or running, take care of hydration and snacks during these activities in advance. Your body will thank you for it!
Author: Jim White, Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist
Jim White is an award-winning nutritionist and trainer who graduated with honours from Youngstown State University, Ohio with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. He is accredited by the Commission on Registration of Dietitians as a certified nutritionist and holds a Diploma in Physical Therapy from the American College of Sports Medicine. Jim has been written about by various publications including Men’s Fitness, GQ and The New York Times magazines. His clients come from all walks of life: athletes, actors, models, entrepreneurs, seniors and teenagers. Jim and his team have helped hundreds of people shed thousands of extra pounds. To find out more about Jim, visit jimwhitefitexpert.com