Did you know that modest dehydration, which is equal to a body mass loss of just two percent, can decrease your athletic performance by up to six and a half percent? Adequate hydration is the one of the most important strategies of a well-tuned and competitive athlete. It truly can be the difference between doing well in a competition (whether that be a marathon, a tri, or CrossFit competition) and actually beating your own record or even WINNING.
So what exactly is proper hydration? According to The American College of Sports Medicine, fluid needs can be significantly different for each person based on activity level, sweat rate, environmental conditions and body mass. Still, the average athlete can lose up to 4 pounds of weight or 2 quarts of water in just 1 hour of intense exercise.
Here are a few ways to tell if you are drinking enough fluids:
Check your urine color and frequency.
Healthy urination should occur every 2-4 hours and should be a light color or look like lemonade. If the color looks more like apple juice or even darker than it is a good sign you’re not drinking enough. (Note: Vitamin supplements can darken urine as well immediately after ingestion.)
Learn how much you sweat when you exercise.
Write down your weight right before training and then weigh yourself again after. Subtract the total amount. Each pound of body weight that is lost should be replaced with at least 16 ounces of water, juice or electrolyte beverage.
Listen closely to thirst signals such as fatigue or increased body temperature.
This method is appropriate for moderate exercisers or those who practice for an hour or less, otherwise thirst may not be enough to determine fluid needs.
Pay attention to your sweat rate.
If you’re a heavy sweater and completely drenched after exercising that means you will likely need extra fluids. Aim for 16 ounces.
Here a few general guidelines to stay hydrated and on top of your game:
- Drink 16-24 fluid ounces of water or electrolyte beverage for every hour of intense exercise. Less may be needed for smaller athletes in milder environments and more may be needed for heavy sweaters.
- If workouts are very strenuous or greater than 1 hour, you’ll need electrolytes and carbohydrates to maintain energy. Sports drinks that contain 6-8% carbohydrates such as Powerade or Gatorade are more appropriate and prevent fatigue. Good rule of thumb is to consume 30-60 grams of carbs during training sessions for every hour of exercise.
- Become familiar with how much fluids you’re drinking. Do you use a 16 ounce water bottle or 24 ounce? One cup of fluids is equivalent to eight ounces and one liter is equivalent to about 33 fluid ounces.
- Drink extra water all day long, especially right before AND after exercising.
Now that you’re properly hydrated, it is time to get in the game and kick some butt!
By: Lisa Moskovitz, RD