Sweating is a normal, natural, and necessary part of endurance sport. But on the flip side of sweating is hydration. How good are your hydration habits?
Summer 2018 was one for the record books, and it’s not quite over yet. There’s still time to level up your hydration so you can train harder, recover better, and perform at a higher level.
Hydration & Sweating
The human body’s ability to sweat is a massive benefit in endurance sport. Any form of exercise requires energy, and we get this energy through the process of converting stored calories. A byproduct of this conversion is body heat, which poses a potential problem. Enter: sweating. Blood flow to the skin’s surface increases, sweat forms, and evaporated to remove heat from the body. This way, we can balance our core body temperature, avoid overheating, and crank out hours of arduous activity and extreme sport. But we must uphold our side of the bargain, by making sure our bodies are hydrated before, during, and after we sweat. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15212747
Overheating & Athletic Performance
Even a small decrease in hydration can have a negative impact on athletic performance as this study into aerobic performance impairment due to heat stress and dehydration showed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20689090. By the time you feel dehydrated, you will be well beyond this narrow safe zone and into potentially dangerous territory. All the more reason to take hydration seriously before you start exercising.
Warning Signs of Dehydration:
- Dizziness, light-headedness, confusion
- Dry lips, dry mouth, or a dry papery feel to the skin
- Physical and mental fatigue, loss of alertness
- Decreased pace/inability to pick up your pace
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate (without increased effort)
- Feeling of increased perceived effort
- How To Assess Your Hydration Status
The best way to swerve the effects of dehydration is to avoid getting to that state in the first place. This means staying hydrated during the day, and on rest days. Check the colour of your urine (especially first thing in the morning) and aim for pale “straw colour” yellow. Anything darker suggests you are already dehydrated.
Don’t Play Catch Up with Hydration
It’s very important to think about how much to drink during training sessions and long races. But there’s another piece of the hydration puzzle: being hydrated to start with. Pay attention to your hydration status before you even get on the the bike or set off for a run. This gives you more resources to call on during the session, boosts your blood volume, and makes it easier for your body to cool itself down. Never be on the back foot with hydration (you’ll be playing catch up, and that’s not an easy game to win).
- Start thinking about hydration 3-4 hours before training or racing (especially important if you’re having a busy day and training in the evening)
- Get into good daily hydration habits so this becomes second nature (see below for our list of best practice tips)
- Use an electrolyte drink like Hydro https://projecte2.co.uk/collections/hydrate/products/hydro-drink before training (consider this “pre-loading” hydration)
6 Daily Hydration Tips
We all have individual hydration requirements and sweat rates (that’s another blog post for another day). But these basic hydration tips will get you off to a good start.
- Start the day with a drink of water (if you are a coffee or tea drinker, have a large glass of water too)
- Drink water throughout the day - enough to keep your urine that pale yellow colour
- Carry a bottle of water with you (in your bag, in the car)
- Have a large glass or bottle of water on your desk
- Finish the day with water or a herbal tea
- Use electrolytes in your water for training and racing - either Hydro Powder or Hydro Tabs are tailor made to look after your electrolyte levels
If you think water is enough to keep you hydrated, think again. Sweat removes important minerals from the body, including the electrolytes sodium, potassium, chloride and and magnesium. You must replace these to be properly hydrated. Use an electrolyte product designed for endurance athletes (check out Hydro Powder). Sodium is depleted more than any other electrolyte, so lightly salt your food or choose salted versions of your regular foods, too.
Food for Hydration
Water will be your main source of hydration, but don’t forget that plenty of foods are useful too. Vegetables, salad leaves, fruits, and berries contain lots of water and can be an effective way of topping up hydration levels. As a general rule, choose heavy vegetables with minimal calories. This suggests that most of the weight is water. Smoothies (with frozen berries, frozen watermelon, or frozen pineapple) or large salads with a variety of leaves, and grated vegetables are great hot-weather saviours. Plus they’ll help you maintain your racing weight!