What is optimal hydration during training?

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Personal/Fitness Training Blog

Remaining hydrated is very important during exercise. Acceptable fluid intake is crucial to comfort, performance as well as safety. The longer and more intensely it is that you exercise the more important it is to drink the correct type of fluids.

What are athletes’ hydration needs?

As there is a broad variation in the sweat rates, losses as well as hydration levels of individuals, it is virtually impossible to provide specific recommendations or guidelines regarding the type or amount of fluids that athletes should consume.

Finding out what the correct amount of fluid to drink depends on a variety of individual factors which includes the length and intensity of exercise in addition to other individual differences. There are, however, two easy methods of estimating sufficient hydration:

  1. Monitoring urine volume output and colour. A large amount of light-coloured, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated. Dark-coloured, concentrated urine probably means that you are suffering from dehydration.
  2. Weighing yourself before as well as after exercise. Any weight which is lost is likely from fluid so try to drink enough to replenish those losses. Any weight gain could mean that you are drinking more than you should.

How athletes lose water

There are a number of ways in which athletes can lose water. Here are some of them:

  • High altitudes. Exercising at high altitudes is responsible for increasing your fluid losses and therefore increases your fluid needs.
  • Exercising during the heat of the day increases your fluid losses through sweating. Exercising in the cold can impair your ability to recognise fluid losses. It can also increase fluid that is lost via respiration. In both instances, it is crucial that the athlete hydrates.
  • A number of athletes sweat more as opposed to others. If you sweat more than usual, you are at an increased risk for dehydration. We need to reiterate that you should weigh yourself before and after exercise to judge sweat loss.
  • Exercise duration and intensity. Exercising for hours (as is the case with endurance sports) means that you need to drink more and more frequently to avoid dehydration.

Is the jury still out on sports drinks?

Sports drinks can be helpful for athletes who are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more. Fluids supplying 60 to 100 calories per eight ounces assist with providing the calories needed for uninterrupted performance.

It’s not necessary to replenish losses of sodium, potassium as well as other electrolytes during exercise. This is because you’re unlikely to deplete your body’s stores of these minerals during regular training. If, however, you find yourself exercising in extremely hot or cold conditions over three or five hours, you may likely want to add to your hydration schedule that a complex sports drink with electrolytes.

Is it conceivable for athletes to drink too much water?

While rare, athletes can drink too much water and suffer from hyponatremia (which is otherwise called water intoxication). Consuming excessive amounts of water can be the cause of a low concentration of sodium in the blood which is a severe medical emergency.

Drinking adequate fluids during an endurance event not only makes the difference between finishing and not finishing. It can also make the difference between becoming seriously ill or not and between living and dying. The body is between 55 and 75% water and exercising uses the body’s water at a faster rate than when sedentary. If it’s not replaced, performance and health suffer.

As a personal trainer, a good number of your clients will be athletes who come to you in order to help them to increase their performance.

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