Despite all that has been written about hydration, it is surprising how many athletes miss this step. Becoming hydrated contributes to the maintenance of normal physical and cognitive functions.
It is not just a case of drinking the odd glass of water. You need to plan hydration through the day, just as much as your food or your training.
What do I need?
The average adult needs about 2 litres of water per day. A small glass of fruit juice can count (150mls) and milk will also count. If you are training, then you will need more liquid and a rough guide is 500mls for every 1 hour training that you do. It is also a good idea to hydrate before you head out with about 500mls of water about 30 minutes before you go. If you want to get technical about how much water you need after training, then you can weigh yourself before you run and then again when you get back. You need to drink one and a half times the weight you lost. That means that if you lost 1 kg in weight, you need to drink one and a half litres of water.
Another good way to check your hydration is the “pee test”. Quite simply, when you pee, it should be light-coloured to clear. If it is dark, then you need to drink more water. You may find it is darker first thing in the morning, but it should never be that dark again for the rest of the day. Many sports people have the motto “ no beer ‘til it’s clear” after an event. Although the beer is not compulsory, it is a good idea to make sure you are well-hydrated after you have exercised, and especially before you add any alcohol. Most people are well-aware that alcohol will dehydrate you, so make sure you do top up with water after training and after alcohol.
Not everyone likes plain water, although you can learn to like it! However, there is no problem adding something to flavour it, just be careful that you look after your teeth at the same time. Keep an eye on sugary drinks, especially if you train – and drink – a lot. Washing your teeth with sugary drinks is not going to make your dentist happy. You can flavour water with fresh mint leaves or cucumber. Herbal teas are a good option when you have finished training and sugar free cordials are another good choice.
Remember: don’t wait until you are thirsty before you take a drink. By the time you are thirsty, you are already 1-2% dehydrated. It is better to top up throughout the day, with the occasional pee check to make sure you are well-hydrated and ready to go.
Written by Sarah Keogh
Consultant Dietitian – MSc., BSc., MINDI