Hydration for Athletes

Summer can be hot in the Okanagan. A good hydration strategy is important if you are planning to be active outside. Dehydration is a real risk in our community, particularly if you are exercising outdoors.

As the body temperature increases, sweat is released onto the skin. When sweat evaporates, it helps to cool down the body. It also causes a net loss of fluid. This can lead to dehydration. Proper hydration is required in order to safely exercise during the summer heat. It can also help promote recovery after your workout is done.

Dehydration occurs when you lose too much fluid. The consequences of dehydration can be a serious medical emergency. Fortunately, there are many signs that indicate when you should drink more fluids.

Signs of Dehydration

  • Extreme thirst
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Headache or confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • Poor skin elasticity
  • Decreased urine output and very dark urine
  • Decreased strength and stamina
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Weight loss
Hydration Athlete

The Effect of Dehydration on Physical Performance

Performance can suffer if you are dehydrated. A decrease in body weight due to fluid loss as little as 2% can cause a noticeable decrease in physical and mental performance [1]

How to Assess for Dehydration

Hydration Pee
*Courtesy of Nathan Sports

It is a misconception that urine colour is the best way to determine your hydration status. If you are extremely dehydrated, your urine colour will be quite dark. However, urine colour can be unreliable to tell you much else.

Shades of yellow may be misleading and can be hard to distinguish from each other. Furthermore, urine colour can be affected by different vitamins, drugs or foods. Your best guide is your sense of thirst [2], [3].

Replenishing Fluids

During a workout, you should drink when you feel thirsty. Try taking small sips (20-50ml) every 15 minutes. This will provide your body with enough time to properly absorb the fluids.

An easy way to determine fluid loss from a workout is to compare your pre- and post-body weight. If you lose a significant amount of weight during a workout, it is typically due to loss of fluids.  

Example of Weight Lost During Exercise

  • A drop in 1Kg body weight equates to roughly 1L of lost fluid
  • Weight at start of workout: 75kg
  • Weight at end of workout: 73kg
  • 75kg-73kg = 2kg lost (or 2L of fluid)
  • Aim to drink 2L of fluids over the course of several hours

A Note on Sports Drinks.

I am frequently asked about sports drinks. Sports drinks include the following ingredients:

  • Fluids
  • Electrolytes (Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc)
  • Carbohydrates
  • Some contain other substances (amino acids, caffeine, etc)

Believe it or not, the best fluid to keep you hydrated is water! Sports drinks can help maintain performance if  you are exercising for longer than one hour. Activities less than one hour do not require a sports drink. Your body should have enough fuel stores for short workouts. If not, your whole nutritional strategy likely needs to be evaluated. Sports drinks outside of workouts longer than an hour should be avoided. This is because they are a source of excess calories. Sports drinks can be useful during longer workouts, but guidance is often required when selecting the right one.

Proper hydration and fueling strategies are key to improving  your performance. It can also make summer activites more enjoyable in the Okanagan heat. If you would like help to meet your fitness goals, naturopahtic medicine can work for you!

[1]N Cheuvront, Samuel & Kenefick, Robert. (2014). Dehydration: Physiology, Assessment, and Performance Effects. Comprehensive Physiology. 4. 257-85. 10.1002/cphy.c130017.

[2]Heneghan, Carl & Gill, Peter & O’Neill, Braden & Lasserson, Daniel & Thake, Miriam & Thompson, Matthew. (2012). Mythbusting sports and exercise products. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). 345. e4848.

[3]Goulet, Eric. (2011). Effect of exercise-induced dehydration on time-trial exercise performance: A meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine. 45. 1149-56. 10.1136/bjsm.2010.077966.

Nutritional Planning for Athletes with Dr. Halldorson

I work with athletes and their coaches to ensure that their diets meet the dietary needs to meet their athletic goals. Due to my experience as a competitive biathlete and cross-country skiing/biathlon coach, I know that diet can make a big difference in athletic performance. There is no universal diet that will work for everyone, hence, I work with athletes to help develop individual diet plans based on their personal needs. I also work to improve digestion with each athlete in order to ensure that they are able to digest and absorb what they eat. Whether the goal is to train for a marathon, increase muscle mass or taper for a big competition, I work to ensure that athletes are fuelled up and ready to perform on demand!

Book a Sport Nutrition Consult Today