This article also appears in the July 2015 newsletter of Portland Sports Psychology. Find it at portlandsportpsychology.com.
All athletes know hydration matters. Being over-hydrated can compromise your performance, just as proper hydration will help you be successful. Hydration isn’t just for competition; you need to pay attention during training and recovery to make your workouts more effective and get that edge you’ve been looking for.
When summer heat hits, here are four ways to effectively hydrate your way to your next win.
Sweat the small stuff. Pay attention to small weight changes after workouts. People have different sweat rates, so a one-size-fits-all approach to hydration isn’t effective, and thirst isn’t always a reliable indicator of fluid needs. Calculate your sweat rate by weighing yourself nude before and after a workout. Keep track of how much you drink in the workout. For every pound of weight you lost, you need to drink 16 ounces of fluid. More than a 2% body weight loss is considered clinical dehydration.
Use this knowledge to replace fluids lost during training. If you regularly lose two pounds during a practice, you know you need to drink about 32 additional ounces throughout that practice. Use training days to figure out how much fluid you need, so on event day you’ll know how much to drink.
Drinking too much or too little can mean decreased performance and potentially be dangerous, leading to heat stroke or hyponatremia (low blood sodium) at worst, and compromised performance at best. Staying hydrated during training will translate into better performance when it really counts.
Replace your ‘lytes. If you have a practice longer than two hours, use an electrolyte supplement such as Hammer Endurolytes, Nuun, or a sports drink with electrolytes. If you feel unduly fatigued, nauseated, sluggish, bloated, or less coordinated, you may be over-hydrated, or have low blood sodium. Correcting this with the proper amount of fluid, including important electrolytes, will allow you to perform at your maximum ability. For recovery drink, try chocolate milk within 30-60 minutes of your workout. It has sugar and protein to replenish your muscles, as well as the key electrolytes sodium, potassium, and calcium.
Add ice for quick cooling. When the sun is hot and you’re exercising hard, your body temperature goes up. Ice slushies before a workout are an effective way to reduce skin and body core temperature. They can also help increase endurance capacity. Try drinking 8-16 ounces of crushed ice mixed with a sports drink 60 minutes before practice on hot days.
Consult an expert. If you need more precise advice, sports dietitians are specifically trained to give science-based nutrition information, and can be a valuable member of your support team. Dietitians can help you develop a solid nutrition and hydration plan for training, recovery, and competition. No matter what your sport, nutrition and hydration are key to helping you reach your potential.