Research has found that up to 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration, therefore it is not surprising that many common issues athletes face in training and racing stems a from lack of proper hydration. Exercise performance is impaired when an individual is dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight. Losses in excess of 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30% (Armstrong et al. 1985; Craig and Cummings 1966; Maughan 1991; Sawka and Pandolf 1990).
Proper hydration on a daily basis as well as during training and racing are directly related to your performance as an athlete. To learn more, we turned to Ilana Katz MS, RD, CSSD, dietitian and owner of Optimal Nutrition for Life. Ilana works with endurance athletes from all disciplines to help them improve body composition and fuel their bodies for their chosen sport through a nutrition strategy designed for their training and lifestyle.
We looked at three key areas of hydration for athletes; daily life, training, and racing
Katz emphasized that hydration is not a race day strategy, meaning that daily hydration has to be the priority for an athlete. If the individual is not properly hydrated on a consistent basis, then the body has a difficult time absorbing fluids at the right rate on the days leading up to a race. If we don’t hydrate properly our training and racing will be directly impacted. It is important to note that thirst is not a good indicator of hydration, so it’s important to maintain a sipping protocol of water throughout the day in order to remain hydrated.
When we define hydration in the context of training and racing, we include electrolyte intake in that definition Electrolytes are the substances in our body which regulate our nerve and muscle function, our body's hydration, blood pH, blood pressure, and the rebuilding of damaged tissue. In a modest climate, typical fluid loss in a workout session could amount to as much as 1-2 liters per hour (4-8 cups of sweat or 2-4 pounds).
Katz gave us some good guidelines for before, during and after a workout.
The goal is to start the workout well hydrated. Drink 2-3 cups of water 2-3 hours before a workout and an additional 1 to 1 ½ cups 15-20 minutes before a workout.
The goal is to stay hydrated by consuming enough fluids to match sweat or urinary losses. Drink 1 - 1 ½ cups every 10-20 minutes. Optimize your fluid intake with electrolyte intake.
The goal is to drink at least 3 cups of water per pound lost in sweat. Ideally, you want to correct any post-exercise fluid loss within two hours of training. Take in adequate electrolytes in recovery drinks and meals.
If you’ve been practicing your fluid strategy during training, then on race day your hydration strategy should be fairly easy to implement. You’ll need to take into account environmental factors such as heat and humidity as well as your individual needs as an athlete but on average you should be taking in 6-10 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes. It’s important to sip and not gulp as gulping can reduce the absorption rate and cause GI distress. Having the right kind of hydration set up on your bike will help you execute the shipping protocol.
Profile Designs Hydration System Set up on a tri bike - See this Product
Many athletes will overlook their race day hydration because of nerves or excitement. Set up an easy system to remind yourself to take in fluids. It could be setting reminders on your watch or marking your water bottle by the ounce so you can easily see how much you’ve taken in during the race.
Try these strategies this season and let us know if you see an improvement in performance!