In sport nutrition, hydration is one of the most important things to keep under control.
Fluids and electrolytes (sodium in particular) are recommended before, during and after exercise for several reasons. A good hydration is basic to avoid hypohydration, which can lead to an increase in cardiovascular strain, a decrease in aerobic performance and… it makes exercise seem harder! Fluid needs are based on sweat losses, which depend on the intensity and duration of the activity, the humidity and temperature of the environment, sport equipment and so on. In particular, younger and older athletes may need encouragement to drink during and post-exercise.
Here are some basic and practical rules:
- Check your weight before and after physical activity to estimate sweat losses. A loss of 1 kg of body weight represents 1 litre of sweat loss. More than 2% of body mass loss decreases the aerobic performance.
- Before exercise it is really important to drink! Some athletes begin exercise in a hypohydrated state. Remember to drink during the day and in particular, try to intake 150-300 ml of fluid about 2 hours before activity preferring fluids and food containing sodium. It helps fluid retention.
- During exercise you should drink about 130-250 ml every 20 minutes, choosing a flavoured and fresh beverage (5-10 °C). This will help you to drink regularly. If the activity lasts up to one hour, water is enough.
- For exercises longer than 1 hour, add carbohydrates and mineral salts to your beverages. Avoid concentrated fruit juices which contain too much sugar. Choose sport drinks with 4 to 8% carbohydrates. Remember to test them when you train, not in competition, to check tolerability,
- Recovery is a delicate and fundamental moment after exercise. After a long training or a competition, you need to restore normal hydration. You should drink 1,5 litre of fluid for every kilogram of weight lost during exercise (within 2 hours). Don’t limit sodium in this phase especially after a long race or training (> 2,5 hours). You need sugars, electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium) and minerals. Fresh fruit is a fantastic choice after workout!
And remember to drink before thirst!