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Hydration
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Hydration

The Importance of Hydration

Water is an important nutrient for life because it helps regulate our temperature, lubricate our joints and transport nutrients throughout the body. Over two thirds of our body weight is made up of water and it is crucial to maintain that balance so that your body and mind can function correctly and we can live a happy health life.

How much do you need to drink?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) determined that women require 2 litres of liquids a day and men require 2.5 litres a day. So this is the absolute minimum you should be aiming to drink each day.

It is difficult to know what your levels of hydration are. Thirst can be a poor indicator of hydration status and therefore athletes should not rely on thirst alone, as a rule drink 150-200ml every 20 minutes while exercising. This will help balance your fluid losses during workout sessions. However, in warmer conditions or in a high intensity workout you may need to drink more.

A simple way to check that you are drinking enough fluid is to check the colour of your urine. The more transparent it is, the more hydrated you are. You should seek to produce urine that is 'very pale yellow', 'pale yellow' or 'straw coloured'.

For many years scientists have known water is not enough

Hydrating when exercising

Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but athletes have an even greater need to maintain proper hydration. Performance can start to decline even with only 2% dehydration. It also makes your heart rate and body temperature spiral upwards, making strenuous exercise tough to carry out.

During exercise, the physical effect of dehydration is becoming fatigued more easily, so every bit of effort feels harder and tougher. The mental effect is that you lose concentration, skill and accuracy. The combined effect is that you end up in a situation where your performance will suffer. This can easily be avoided through effective hydration.

Why is water not enough?

For many years scientists have known water is not enough.  86% of people drink water to hydrate when exercising but this is not the most effective way to stay hydrated. Your body needs electrolyte minerals, including sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, which you lose along with water when you sweat.

  • Prolonged heavy sweating can lead to significant mineral losses, particularly sodium. If you drink water, which has no electrolytes; you can dilute the concentration of remaining electrolyte minerals in your body. This imbalance means your performance is impaired.
  • Drinks containing electrolyte minerals improve the speed of absorption to the body, which is important when you need to rehydrate quickly, especially during strenuous exercise in the heat.
  • Sports drinks help tackle dehydration, but also provide muscle fuel and are ideal for people who do longer, harder training sessions, typically over an hour.

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