Hydration and Sport
With the Olympics in full swing, cricket and rugby on the TVs and the imminent football season returning, or maybe you are a regular gym go-er or yoga fan, it certainly is a very sporty month.
Whatever sport or form of exercise you choose, it is very important to ensure you stay hydrated while being active. If you are not drinking enough water, your nutrition plan and fitness program will be much less effective in achieving your goals and hamper your performance.
In any diet regime, water is an essential component and can have great benefits for your body.
How to stay hydrated when exercising
Proper hydration keeps you healthy during exercising. The exact fluid you need depends on many factors such as how long you exercise for, your workout conditions (heat and humidity), and the amount you sweat.
But it’s not just hydrating with water, you need to consider you also need to take on adequate electrolytes, as you can effectively dilute and affect the balance of your body’s fluids. This can lead to a feeling of being bloated and nauseous; and can be dangerous.
Remember, as well as replacing lost fluid, you also must replace lost electrolytes too. Drinks, such as plain water or very weak orange squash, replace lost fluids very quickly, but don’t provide energy or electrolytes. Anyone running for more than four hours should be guided by thirst – avoid drinking huge amounts of ;plain water but have sports drinks that contain sodium.
Isotonic drinks are the same concentration as your body fluids so are absorbed as fast as or faster than water.
Hypertonic drinks are more concentrated than body fluids, and will be absorbed more slowly than plain water, reducing the speed of fluid replacement. These drinks are most suitable as post-run drinks that offer a higher dose of energy with fluid. More useful information can be found at the British Nutrition Foundation .
Alcohol or not?
Drinking alcohol, the night before an event or training session can negatively affect your performance. Alcohol can affect your quality of deep sleep, make you dehydrated, sluggish and impair your ability to recover.
Having put in months of hard training it would be a shame to not perform at your best for a few missed drinks! If you do decide to drink, stick to just one type of drink and ensure you have food, too.
Drinking after exercise is certainly not advisable especially if you haven’t consumed enough water to replace the fluids you lost. You could feel dizzy and unwell as a result.
Does coffee count?
Studies show that a moderate intake of coffee or tea (3-5 cups), does count towards fluid and caffeine can also improve athletic performance. It works on the central nervous system giving you a sense of feeling less tired, so you keep going longer. Endurance athletes find is useful for their sports.
Drink between 1-2 large cups of standard filter coffee for an average man or woman, at least an hour before exercise. It is useful before the start, before a hill climb (bike or running) or a sprint finish, but don’t overdo it!
Why water works
Water maintains proper muscle tone by giving muscles their ability to contract. Water delivers oxygen to the muscles and helps the body perform more efficiently.
Water is an instant energy pick-me-up. Dehydration leads to fatigue because it impacts the flow of oxygen to the brain and causes your heart to work harder to pump oxygen to all organs.
Monitor your hydration
- Choose the right fluids and right amount for the length of time you exercise or play sport
- Listen to your body – if you're thirsty or sweating heavily then drink
- High heat environment – as we are seeing in Tokyo, so drink ahead to avoid dehydration
- Practice drinking during exercise whilst training
- Check the colour of your urine as a good guide to hydration
Top tips for staying hydrated during sport
- Treat yourself to a reusable water bottle that you can easily refill at a fountain or hydration self-fill tap
- Keep your water bottle topped up ready at all times
- Find out where refill water-points are on your run or walk
- Add a slice of lemon and some mint to add flavour if you prefer
- Put reminders on your phone when to drink or use or handy app to monitor and remind you
- You can also incorporate water in the form of warm beverages like tea, soup and hot chocolate
- Don’t wait to feel thirsty before you drink water, especially if walking in cooler temperatures. Try to have a few sips every 15-20 minutes.
Reusable bottles cut plastic use
For gyms, fitness events and festivals, taps with filters, plumbed in water coolers and fountains, allow you to refill you own bottles without having to buy single-use plastic so reduce waste going to landfill and cut plastic pollution. Filtered water tastes great too.
Frequent exercise can help improve overall wellbeing in the workplace as well in your personal life. Exercise does help employees stay healthy and happy become increasingly more valuable with reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, and good team morale.