One question that we all ask ourselves, especially we who exercise, is the following: Am I hydrated enough? The effects of hydration on athletic performance have been widely studied and today it has been well documented that, even mild dehydration can have a negative effect on the athlete’ s efforts.
Hydration: The 5 most often asked questions
In more serious cases of dehydration, not only is the athlete’s performance negatively influenced, but his health might even be endangered.
1. In which sports is more probable to meet dehydrated athletes?
In general, long-duration, aerial sports are the most being studied, since the athletes engaged into them, are expected to lose a lot of body fluids by sweating. Long-distance runners, cyclists, athlete dancers, martial arts athletes are at greater risk of dehydration. Of course, this doesn’t mean that athletes of other types of training, like Resistance training, can not improve their performance by ensuring that they get properly hydrated.
People who are into aerial sports or Pole Dancing, can have higher or lesser body fluids demands, depending on the duration and intensity of their training.
Urine color is always indicative of your hydration level, therefore if you notice before or after a game or a training session, that your urine color got darker, then most probably you belong to the group of athletes who are not properly hydrated.
In general, in very warm days, it is more likely for athletes to get dehydrated earlier than normal and that is why these days we should place greater emphasis on the protocol related to hydration.
2. How can I estimate my needs in fluids during training?
A good way to estimate the needs of your body in fluids, during training, is to get your weight on a precision scale before and after a typical workout session. The lost weight will represent the amount of fluids lost in sweat. By adding to this number, the fluids consumed during training, you can get a realistic aspect of your true needs.
3. What should I do in order to stay well hydrated during a training/game?
In general lines, after you have calculated the amount of fluids lost during training, you must concentrate on getting back the equivalent amount of water. This should occur in small doses, in small time periods, so to avoid any gastrointestinal discomfort. Avoid consuming over 200 ml of water (6-7 sips) for every 10 minutes., unless, based on your personal needs, is necessary, something that it is not likely for people into aerial acrobatics. Another good practice, especially if you belong to the category of individuals who sweat easily, is to start your workout, hyperhydrated. Even if consuming 200-300 ml of water shortly before exercise, delays initiation of dehydration.
4. Is water enough or do I also need electrolytes or/and carbohydrates?
When we refer to electrolytes, we mainly think of sodium and potassium, two compounds found in large amounts in our body. Although it is very popular among athletes to dilute tablets of electrolytes in their water, bibliography shows that this is rarely needed. Body has its own mechanisms to keep electrolyte concentrations in normal, even in cases of excessive sweating, while lost electrolytes can get replaced after training with diet. During prolonged and very intense exercise (f.ex. ultramarathon runners) hyponatremia might be observed and in this case electrolytes must be replaced while the athlete is in the race. If however, you are planning to get electrolytes, keep in mind that supplements containing 400-1000 mg of sodium/L and 120-220mg of potassium/L can satisfyingly cover you.
Carbohydrates constitute the main source of energy during exercise and prolonged workout, where glycogen storages in the body significantly decrease. An ongoing intake can boost athletic performance. Usually, we need to add carbohydrates, when exercise is intense and lasts over one hour. Finally, you should make sure that sugar concentration does not go over 10%, as this can lead to an upset stomach.
5. So, what should I choose? Water, Juices or Sports drinks?
In cases in which exercise lasts less than an hour usually water is enough to cover the amount of fluids lost in sweat. In cases of intense and prolonged exercise, sports beverages containing 10% carbohydrates can replace water and in addition provide you with all the electrolytes needed. Juices can also be used during exercise to maintain hydration, however try to dilute them with water, so to contain relatively low amount of sugar and to avoid gastrointestinal problems. Drinking juices is more useful after the completion of exercise (no fear of stomach getting upset) for immediate replacement of glycogen storage until we have our post training meal.