During the hot summer months, training sessions often cause the sensation of thirst. But during cold, winter rows, the feelings of thirst may not be as pronounced despite a similar level of training intensity. Hydration is a crucial means for replenishing the fluids lost during exercise, and thirst should not be relied upon as an indication of fluid need. Before and during exercise, consume fluids prior to the sensation of thirst. Feeling thirsty indicates that your body is already dehydrated, therefore the key is to drink often to delay the onset of thirst and dehydration.
Observing the color of your urine is an easy way to determine your level of hydration. A pale yellow indicates a well-hydrated body. As the level of dehydration increases, urine takes on a darker yellow, or even brownish, appearance. Since the degree of hydration has an important impact on athletic performance, you can check the color of your urine as a means to determine how hydrated you are prior to exercising. This can help to ensure you drink enough fluids prior to beginning a workout.
While drinking water during exercise is a sure way to help improve performance, there is even more benefit to drinking carbohydrate or electrolyte-containing sports drinks over plain water. Carbohydrate sports drinks have the added benefit of providing your body with carbohydrates that can be used for energy during exercise. Electrolyte sports drinks are able to improve the hydration benefit over plain water by helping to reduce cramping and assisting with consistent muscle activation. By accustoming your body to these types of sports drinks during exercise, you can gain valuable performance improvements during practice and racing.
There are multitudes of different sports drinks available with different amounts of carbohydrate content. As a result, it can be difficult to know what sports drinks will provide the proper benefit of carbohydrate consumption during exercise. The recommended carbohydrate concentration of a sports drink is 6-8%. This is roughly equivalent to 14 grams of carbohydrates for every 8 ounces or 240 milliliters of fluid. To determine the carbohydrate concentration, look on the nutrition facts for a sports drink and determine the grams of carbohydrates in a serving. Then determine the volume in milliliters of a serving of the sports drink. By dividing the number of grams of carbohydrates per serving by the serving size volume, then multiplying by 100, you can determine the carbohydrate content. Remember, the recommended carbohydrate concentration of a sports drink to be consumed during exercise is 6-8%.
Some athletes struggle with how much fluid to drink during exercise. The amount of water you need during exercise depends on the amount you sweat. Thus you can calculate your fluid needs by weighing in before and after exercise. Every pound lost during exercise must be replaced with 24 ounces of water. A pound of lost body fluid only weighs 16 ounces, so by drinking 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of fluid lost, you help replace lost fluids while also satisfying the ongoing hydration needs of your body. A good tip is to mark a water bottle with a line for every 2-4 ounces of fluid. This can help you ensure that you are drinking sufficient fluids during exercise.
Drink early. Drink often. And you can start to enjoy the benefits of good hydration during training and in your everyday activities.