We’ve all heard how important it is to stay hydrated, instead, let’s look at what happens to our body when we lose fluids while training. A number of factors can speed up the rate of water loss including hot and cold temperatures, high humidity, altitude, caffeine, excess body weight, restrictive clothing, illness, and prolonged exercise.
Marathoners, and other non-endurance athletes like football, soccer, and basketball players can lose several quarts of water during an event lasting longer than one hour, so fluid intake is critical for optimal performance. A one quart loss in sweat raises your heart rate by eight beats per minute, which places stress on the cardiovascular system, increases core temperature, impedes the body’s cooling system, and affects all metabolic pathways. This loss causes the blood in your circulatory system to get thicker, making it harder for the heart to pump, and reducing your ability to regulate body heat. A slight loss of water can have physical, mental, and emotional consequences with a mere two percent loss in water weight. What seems like an insignificant number, this can compromise your judgement by as much as twenty-five percent.
So how much water do we need? First of all, thirst should not be an indicator, at this point, you’re already about a quart low. The best rule of thumb is to gauge your fluid intake by your fluid output. In other words, the frequency of urination, relieving yourself about every 1-2 hours. It should also be clear, not yellow.
Here’s a look at hydration guidelines before, during, and after an event:
Daily – So many variables to consider, try to follow the fluid loss/intake rule.
Pre-Event – 18 to 24 ounces 2 hours prior, and 15 to 20 ounces 20 minutes before.
During Event – 6 to 9 ounces every 20 minutes.
Post Event – 18 to 24 ounces (with a carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement)
Boone A Ebel
Specialist in Performance Nutrition
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