Water is essential for our everyday health and wellbeing – but it’s even more important during exercise. In addition to ensuring you are making suitable food choices and following an appropriate training programme, staying hydrated is important for optimising sports performance. In this blog post, we’ll examine ways to enhance your athletic performance with good hydration. One of the best sports drinks for hydration is simple, plain water – and lots of it!
Hydration and Exercise
Why is it important to drink water during exercise? During exercise, the body maintains its optimal body temperature by removing heat through sweat.
The amount of sweat that we produce increases with exercise intensity, as well as in environments with high temperatures and humidity. Just a small loss of fluid through sweat, equal to just 2% of body weight, can result in a decrease in physical performance.
As well as impairing performance, dehydration during exercise can place stress on the cardiovascular system and increase the risk of illness and injury. Mild levels of dehydration during exercise can also affect mental performance, resulting in decreased motivation.
The good news is that rehydration can reverse these effects. Therefore, drinking water is necessary to replace the fluids that have been lost through sweat during exercise.
How to Stay Hydrated During Exercise
We should aim to be in a well-hydrated state before starting any physical activity, so seek to drink appropriate levels of water as part of your normal routine. You can read more about how much water you should be drinking here.
You can estimate your sweat losses during exercise by weighing yourself before and after training; each kilogram of body weight lost during exercise represents a fluid loss of approximately one litre. This can help you to estimate how much fluid you need to consume during exercise.
We should aim to lose no more than 2% of your body weight through sweat during exercise, for the reasons outlined above.
It may not always be possible to take on water at the same rate that it is lost through sweat. Therefore, it is important to continue drinking after you’ve finished exercising. Pay attention to your thirst levels and toilet habits to indicate your hydration status.
If you notice that you are going to the toilet less often than normal and/or passing small amounts of urine that are any darker than pale yellow, you are dehydrated and need to drink some water as soon as possible.
What Should I Drink?
For low to moderate-intensity exercise that lasts less than an hour, water is an effective choice.
For higher intensity sessions that last longer than an hour, sports drinks that contain electrolytes are ideal. This is because we also lose crucial electrolytes such as sodium through sweating. Ensuring these are replaced will help to prevent any negative effects on health or performance.
You can make your own electrolyte drink at home by combining 800mls of filtered tap water with a pinch of salt and 200mls fruit squash. For the best electrolyte drink, you’ll want to ensure that your fruit squash is NOT sugar-free. You can also buy ready-made isotonic sports drinks such as Lucozade water.