Coach Tip Tuesday: Hydration is More Than Just Water
Now that we’re fully into August (aka the hottest and most humid month in New York, and therefore my least favorite month of the year), it’s a GREAT time to talk about hydration and how it affects athletic performance.
Any athlete who I have worked one-on-one with will tell you that I HARP on their hydration habits (for real - I grill them). And I do so with good reason. Water is critical for us humans to live - we’re about 60% water - and some of our major organs have higher percentages than that. (The brain and heart are about 73% water and the lungs are about 83% water.) It’s our body’s natural lubricant, and it’s also our FedEx system of delivering nutrients to all of our tissues (via our bloodstream). Any water that is lost through perspiration needs to be replaced or we enter a state of dehydration. Athletes who lose just 2% of their body weight through exercise will have sub-optimal performances, not to mention some other undesirable side effects (cramping, nausea, GI distress, fatigue, and headaches, just to name a few).
While we can hydrate ourselves with our food (think vegetables, fruits, etc.), the majority of our hydration does come from the consumption of liquids. Water is generally the best option for hydration, but for athletes, consumption of sports drinks does become important. 99% of our sweat is water, but 1% of it is electrolytes (think sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium). When prioritizing these, sodium is the most important to monitor since it has the highest concentration in sweat (when compared to other electrolytes). “Salty sweaters” will need to consume more sodium throughout workouts in order to properly replenish their electrolyte stores. Some sports drinks (such as Tailwind or Gatorade Endurance Formula) contain carbohydrates as well as liquid and electrolytes, while others (such as nuun Hydration) are just electrolytes and can be easily added to water for consumption both during exercise and during the rest of your day.
I recommend conducting a sweat rate test for each discipline that you compete in so that you can develop a hydration plan that is designed around YOU. Some athletes only need to consume 16 ounces of fluid per hour on the bike, while other athletes may need to consume 44 ounces per hour. Once dehydration starts to set in during a workout or event, it is nearly impossible to come back from performance-wise. Do yourself a favor and get ahead of it so your body can perform well for you and so that you stay safe and healthy. This means monitoring your hydration habits ALL the time, and especially during workouts.
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.