Hydrating for Performance
By Patricia Chuey, Senior Nutrition Consultant, SportMedBC
Building on our series to Sun Run victory, the next step to take a close look at is hydration. Are you doing as good of a job as you could?
Water is life. While you could survive for weeks without food if you had too (I don’t recommend it), it would only be a matter of days if you avoided all fluids that you’d get severely dehydrated. As an athlete in training, consider dehydration to be enemy number one. Once dehydrated, you immediately experience a reduction in energy. This can be followed with lightheadedness, dizziness, a headache or muscle cramps. You might feel hungry too when really it’s thirst. Water helps nutrients travel through the body, lubricates joints making it easier to move and helps keep an exercising body at a safe temperature. Good hydration is also critical for healthy blood pressure.
There is much debate about how much water to drink. We hear everything from six to ten cups of water suggested as a daily goal. I recommend drinking enough water that your urine is pale in colour and you have to go number one, every two hours or so. For many people, this works out to around six, eight ounce cups per day. The taller you are and the more you train and sweat, the more you need to replace fluids. Like everything in nutrition, balance with hydration matters. Consuming way more water than needed is not ideal. Excess water during exercise without adequate electrolytes included can create a dangerous fluid imbalance known as hyponatremia.
While some people prefer to drink water with meals, others don’t. In either case, ensure you get enough each day. Evenly distributing the water makes more sense for staying hydrated and energized than going for long periods without and then downing 24 ounces or more all at once. Served cold or warm, the best and calorie-free fluid for hydration is water. Other hydrating fluids include milk, unsweetened soy, almond or other milk, real fruit juices, tea and even coffee if not heavy on sugar. Watery fruits and vegetables like celery, lettuce, tomatoes and melons provide meaningful hydration as do soups if not excessively salty. Pop and alcohol do NOT qualify. Make staying hydrated routine by drinking four to eight ounces (half to one cup) of hydrating fluids every time you eat a meal or snack.
Arrive at training sessions and race day well hydrated. Drink about one to two cups of hydrating fluids in the 2 hour period before starting. This allows time for your kidneys to process the water. If you jump out of bed and head straight out to run, drink a sip or two of water. During exercise, stay hydrated by drinking a sip of water (about a quarter cup portion) every fifteen to twenty minutes. Although very important for electrolyte replacement in exercise lasting more than 90 minutes, sports drinks are not required in shorter sessions. After exercise, hydrate with at least one cup of quality fluid.
Other habits that promote optimal hydration include drinking a little extra water if eating foods that are excessively sweet or salty and interspersing a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage you might drink. Because each can of pop supplies about ten teaspoons of sugar, don’t count pop as a hydrating fluid. Make water easy to access by keeping a water bottle with you at work, bringing it to the gym or carrying some in a hip pack with you while running.