Staying well hydrated is incredibly important for recreational and elite athletes, as well as non-exercise goers. The body is made up of approximately 72% water and this water assists with a wide range of chemical reactions that occur throughout the body including those that regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, support metabolism, promote fat burning and most importantly transport nutrients to cells to give you energy.
Almost ¾ of Australians are considered chronically dehydrated often because our thirst signals are quite weak and can get confused for hunger signals. With the hot weather coming it is especially important to make sure you are getting in your fluids!
Day to day hydration
- Start the day with a large glass of water (cold or warm) - you can even add a slice of lemon to it to get your digestive enzymes going and support your liver function
- To ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day between meal times, carry a water bottle around with you or have it at your desk, but avoid chugging water at meals as this dilutes your digestive enzymes
- If you always forget to drink, try setting your phone alarm to remind you every hour – it gets so annoying you will remember or your desk neighbour will start to remind you!
- Always drink water when consuming alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, as these both dehydrate you – alternating 1 for 1 is a good approach
- Always drink water in any exercise session if possible – sip on water in your rest breaks or throughout a long endurance session
How much water do I need?
- The average person needs at least 2 litres of water daily
- For every hour of exercise the body needs 600ml – 1 litre of extra water, this is on top of your daily intake of 2 litres!
- If you are interested in testing your average water loss, you can weigh yourself before exercise, then exercise for 1 hour without hydrating and then weigh yourself post exercise. 1 litre of water weighs 1kg, so if you have lost 800g then you lose approx. 800ml of water per hour
Electrolytes – do I need them?
- Magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium are minerals known as electrolytes – they regulate the amount of water in the body and delegate where water is distributed too
- When exercising for less than an hour, water will be sufficient for hydration, but for longer sessions you need to introduce an electrolyte drink that has carbohydrates in it
- Electrolytes are lost via sweat in prolonged exercise and or in hot conditions
- Electrolytes reduce muscle cramping and fatigue and help reduce recovery time
- If you work outside all day in the heat then an electrolyte drink along with water is also necessary
- Dehydration in sport results in increased body temperature, causing blood be sent to the skin to cool you – this results in your working muscles getting less blood flow and therefore lower performance!
Race day hydration
- You need to pre-hydrate before an event, make sure 2 days out from an event you are well hydrated and avoid dehydrating drinks like alcohol or excess amounts of coffee
- Continuously sip on fluids the morning of your event – up to 200ml of water every 20 minutes up until 30 minutes before race start
- If the race last for longer than 45-50 minutes, always drink throughout the race
- Practice drinking water throughout your training sessions so your body is use to absorbing it while you exercise
- If racing in events 60-75 minutes or longer, drink both water and either an electrolyte drink with carbohydrates in it or gels and salt tablets – again practice this in training
Hydration and electrolyte options to choose
- Water is always number one – it is free and very accessible
- However as stated above after 60-75 minutes of exercise or if you work outside in the heat all day then you need more than just water, so below are my recommendation of electrolyte drinks
- Pure coconut water or pure watermelon juice: These are both great natural options to help hydrate you after a workout or race that is 60-75 minutes or less or in combination with one of the electrolyte brands below. Both coconut water and watermelon juice have lots of potassium in them but lack enough magnesium or sodium for optimal hydration during/after prolonged exercise on their own. These are easily accessible as most petrol stations, 7 Elevens and supermarkets all stock watermelon juice and pure coconut water in tetra drink boxes
Electrolyte brands I recommend
- ISOWHEY sports electrolyte formula - https://www.chemistwarehouse.com.au/buy/86180/isowhey-sports-electrolyte-formula-berry-powder-500g-online-only - Get online at Chemist Warehouse
- Informed Sports approved if you are a drug tested athlete
- Pure sports nutrition electrolyte hydration - https://www.puresportsnutrition.com.au/collections/electrolyte-hydration-range/products/pure-electrolyte-hydration-500g - Order online or get from most bike stores
- Endura rehydration performance fuel - https://www.endura.com.au/Products/Product?groupkey=EPFL - Get in store at Chemist warehouse or from health food stores or order online from their website
Clinical Nutritionist, Evado Studios