Hydration is important for any athlete, whether you train for enjoyment or to win. Poor hydration habits can impact on your general well-being, energy levels, training and performance. Being hydrated helps to:
- delay fatigue
- make exercise feel easier, so you can work harder
- improve concentration and focus
Individual fluid needs vary significantly due to a number of factors, one being climate. The best way for our body to cool down during exercise is to sweat. Some people sweat more than others, but we all need to step up our fluid intake with warmer, humid conditions to prepare our bodies to train and ensure we recover to be ready for our next session. For longer exercise sessions/rides, it is likely you will need to re-fill your bidons/bottles – fluid losses can vary from around 500ml-2000ml+/hour on hot days. The harder you are working, the more likely your losses will be large, so think about the type of session ahead. You don’t need to replace all the fluid you lose during exercise, but awareness of individual losses can help with planning.
WHAT TO DRINK?
Water is great for hydration, but in hot conditions you may also need to consider electrolytes. A variety of sachets or effervescent tablets are available and are a great portable option for extra electrolytes (predominantly sodium) without the sugar. If additional fuel is required for longer or higher intensity rides in the heat then carbohydrate-containing sports drinks can be useful, or a combination of water, sports drinks and electrolytes, tailored to your individual needs. Other nutritious fluids such as milk and smoothies contain electrolytes, plus protein and carbohydrate, and are a great way to recover and re-hydrate. For a comparison of different fluids and electrolyte content, see my article on the best fluids for hydration.
The type and amount of fluid that will work best will differ day-to-day, from one training session to the next. An easy way to check your hydration is in the bathroom. Urine that is clear or very pale yellow indicates a good level of hydration. The darker your urine, the more you probably need to drink (be aware that this test is not valid if you take vitamin/mineral supplements because these often cause urine to be brighter or darker in colour). So drink up for summer - plan around the environmental conditions and type of training session to meet your varying hydration requirements.
Information prepared by Lisa Middleton, Advanced Sports Dietitian
Lisa Middleton is one of Australia’s most experienced Sports Dietitians. Lisa has spent over 15 years advising some of the nation’s most elite athletes and teams across a range of sports including VIS athletes, the Essendon, Hawthorn and St Kilda AFL Football clubs, Melbourne Vixens Netball, Melbourne Storm Rugby League and Melbourne Victory Football clubs throughout grand final and premiership years.