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Hydration Facts for Optimal Athletic Performance

April 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 172

Did you know you can increase your performance just by hydrating correctly?

There is a lot more to hydration than just drinking water. Understanding the facts can not only improve your endurance and performance, but also prevent injury.

Even non-athletes know the importance of keeping hydrated, but proper hydration is absolutely crucial for endurance athletes.

There are 3 elements that you should know about, and how they work together.

  • Water
  • Electrolytes
  • Nutrition/Fuel

"The importance of your water intake exceeds that of your vitamin, calorie, and electrolyte consumption"

Even though it has no nutrient value, water is the most critical of all your exercise fueling needs.

Body composition is up to 70% water, so proper hydration is important for cellular metabolism and blood flow, both of which affect athletic performance.

It is not difficult to lose too much water when exercising more than 30 minutes. If you are a 120 pound woman this equates to 80 pounds of water in the body. Lose even one half liter (17 ounces) of water during moderate exercise and you will already be experiencing the effects of dehydration. This loss represents almost 1% of your total body weight and you will already see degradation in your performance. Yet you will just now be experiencing thirst. On average, you lose about one liter (about 34 ounces) of fluid per hour of exercise. Extreme heat and humidity can raise that amount as high as three liters in one hour!

Dehydration refers to an inadequate amount of fluid in the body. Among athletes who participate in endurance sports or long workouts, dehydration can occur quickly. In general, a person is considered dehydrated when they have lost more than 2 percent of their body weight during exercise


With just a 2% loss in total body fluid, anyone can suffer any or all of the following. Athletes can experience this 2% loss very rapidly if they are unaware:

  • loss of performance of up to 30%
  • experience flushing,
  • low endurance
  • rapid heart rates
  • elevated body temperatures
  • rapid onset of fatigue

There are two types of concerns with water intake - not enough, and too much.

Hyponatremia, also called water intoxication, is generally the result of drinking excessive amounts of plain water (as opposed to water with electrolytes), thereby causing a low concentration of sodium in the blood. It used to be a rare occurrence but is becoming more prevalent as participation increases at sporting events, and more novice exercisers are entering endurance events.


The early warning signs are often subtle and may be similar to dehydration. They can include:

  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Slurred speech

Obviously, none of these are good things!

As is true with calories and electrolytes, you cannot replenish fluids at the same rate you deplete them; your body simply won't absorb as fast as it loses. Most of the time you can only absorb about 20 - 25 fluid ounces (about one large bike bottle) of water per hour, even though it will not fully replace your losses.

For peak performance, then, it is important to maintain a balance.

"Too little water, you feel bad, and your performance suffers. Too much water, you feel bad, and your performance suffers."

This is your body's way of trying to get your attention!

Here is a handy formula to determine how much water you should drink daily. It is more accurate than the standard "eight glasses a day" mantra. This is your "base" amount. Your actual needs will be determined by your activity level. More activity equals more perspiration and that means you need to replenish the additional water that you lose.

NOTE: This is WATER, not soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea or juice!

(Body Weight) X.5 or.6 = fluid ounces to drink daily.

For every hour of moderate to strenuous exercise add 20 - 25 more ounces.

When your homeostasis (fluid balance) is out of whack you will suffer a loss of

performance. Before any event, it is vitally important to calculate your fluid, calorie, and electrolyte intake in accordance with how your body absorbs (absorption mechanism).

Adequate fluid intake is essential for athletes before, during, and after exercise. Whether to use sports drinks or just water depends upon your duration and intensity of exercise. Anything more than about 45 minutes and you should start replacing electrolytes in addition to water. These are general guidelines; you should use your training time to determine your specific needs. How much water? How often? Sports drinks? Gels? Chews? There are many options.

When I am racing a triathlon I have found that I perform best with 1 bottle of water every hour on the bike and 3 gels every hour on the run. I also get water at every aid station. The cups are generally about 5 ounces so this equals about 5 ounces every 15 minutes. Remember, this is a very rough "rule of thumb"!

The key is Proper Balance - Consuming the right amounts of water, nutrients, and electrolytes (essential minerals) will help you achieve your best performance. Maintaining the correct balance will mean the difference between staggering in at the finish line (or not finishing at all) and snagging a podium spot.

Michael Iska is a writer that competes in triathlon and teaches others how to race and train. You can check out his latest website at, where he explains how to get started in the multi-sport lifestyle. Triathlon beginners don't need to be intimidated by what to do first, you can find answers here: First Triathlon Swim.

Source: EzineArticles
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Article Tags:

Athletic Performance


Optimal Athletic Performance


Water Intake


Hydration Facts







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