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The Importance of Hydration: Drinking to Win

Whether you are an elite or recreational competitor you need more fluid than the average person

Proper hydration before, during and after training or competition is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of sport performance in highly active people. Whether you are an elite or recreational competitor you need more fluid than the average person for one simple reason: you sweat. Failing to properly account for this reality will prevent you from performing your best.

In today’s article I will explore the latest evidence on hydration recommendations for highly active people and you will know pretty quickly whether or not you have been taking hydration as seriously as you should be. These recommendations are based on a recently released comprehensive review of the latest sports science data that was jointly conducted by The Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Before
In the 2 to 4 hours before intense training or competition you should aim to consume 5-10 ml of fluid per kilogram of bodyweight. If you are 150 lbs (divided by 2.2 = 68 kilograms) this means you should aim to consume 340-680 ml of fluid. Failing to do so will increase your risk of dehydration and reduce your ability to perform optimally. A pale yellow colour in your urine is an indication that you have hydrated correctly prior to competition or training.

During
The amount of fluid you need during exercise will vary greatly depending on your individual characteristics, the weather and the intensity and duration of the activity you are taking part in. Assuming you are involved in relatively intense training or competition, consuming fluid in the 0.4 to 0.8 L per hour range will probably be sufficient. It is also important that you consume an amount that you feel physically comfortable with. You may also consider consuming colder drinks on warm days and ensuring your fluids have sodium and/or carbohydrates in them especially if you know yourself to sweat heavily or are engaging in prolonged intense activity ( >1 hour). Doing so will help maintain your performance levels by fending off cramping and exhaustion.

After
If you completed an intense bout of training or competition it is very likely you will have lost more fluid than you put in, which means that this balance needs to be restored. Consuming a modest amount of fluids with a post-game meal that contains some salt (sodium) and drinking small amounts of fluid continuously in the hours after will help ensure proper fluid retention and recovery. Avoiding alcohol due to its diuretic (dehydrating) effect is also advisable.

Bottom Line
If you are a highly active person and are looking to take your performance to the next level, you might consider revisiting your hydration practices. This is especially true if you regularly compete or train at high intensities, at warm temperatures, for long durations or if you know yourself to sweat very heavily. Failing to account for these conditions will inevitably result in detriment to your performance and potentially your health as well. 

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