Hydration Masterclass

Hydration is essential to every athletes, regardless of whether you're stuck in an office 9-5 before training or performing during the heat of summer. In fact, when it comes to boosting you exercise intensity, getting to grips with hydration during different training environments is the first place to look when it comes to better endurance and power. Take a look at marathon runners and nutritional expert Lynn Clay's hydration master class below, which will help anyone optimise their personal hydration....

Get your daily fluid

Naturally, it's vital to think about your daily training and activities to help plan your fluid intake in advance. Scientific studies have proven that many athletes actually start exercising when dehydrated, which is a great way to rapidly decrease stamina, focus and energy levels! Therefore, tip number one is to always drink 2-3 litres of fluid per day, whatever your daily schedule. Don't go through the motions – actually keep a note (mental or written) about your fluid intake.

Water is the obvious place to turn for fluid and is a good option, but remember that juice and caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee also contribute to your fluid levels. A word of caution though – after 3 cups of tea/coffee, caffeinated drinks may have a diuretic effect. Green/herbal teas are generally a better option for hydration purposes.

Top tip — a 1 litre water bottle is a great way to control your hydration and ensure adequate fluid intake. Many people opt for a glass, but they infrequently get lazy and fail to drink enough without the visual reminder and convenience of a water bottle.

Hydration on the move

So, you've mastered you basic fluid needs – now it's time to go a step further and think about optimising you training hydration. Whatever your training conditions (hot/cold, dry/humid) hydration is very important for your performance. Of course, hot conditions make hydration even more critical since hot conditions stress the body more and induce profuse sweating as a cooling mechanism.

Unfortunately, excessive sweating causes dehydration, leading to an a loss of fluid plus essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. What more, here's the 'biggie' for those of you who are really fit – the fitter you are, the more efficiently your body sweat, meaning you need a higher fluid intake to prevent the rapid on-set of dehydration. Since a 2% fluid loss during exercise has been proven to cause a rapid decline in exercise performance – you can see just how essential it is to tackle your hydration status.

Personalising your hydration

In general, most athletes tend to aim to drink 0.5-1.5l of fluid per hours of exercise. However, this estimate can only ever be a general recommendation. So, if you desire peak performance, it's important to tailor your hydration to your own needs and determine whether you're a 'light' or 'heavy' sweater.

One method for establishing your sweat profile is to weigh yourself before and after a training run. Naturally, you aim should be to sip enough fluid to weight the same at the end of a training run as when you start. However, remember that fluid needs will change in different conditions, so always adapt your hydration strategy. Weighing is recommended by the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Loughborough University who have highlighted that most athletes weigh significantly less after training and events, indicating a large loss of fluid.

Suggested hydration strategy:

- Before-training: take your weight
- Training: cycle, run or swim for 60 minutes hydrating on 500ml (17oz) liquid
- After-training: record your weight

For each kg of body mass lost, in excess of 1l of fluid should added to your hydration plan.

In cold environments, 1 litre is fine, but if the weather is warm this should be increased to 1.2l/kg body mass and 1.5l/kg if the heat in in excess of 80 degrees.

Cold conditions - 1l fluid
Warm conditions - 1.2l fluid
Hot conditions - 1.5l fluid

For example; a 70kg runner during 1 hour's exercise in 80°F heat, drinking a 500ml sports drink during the run, may lose 0.5kg of mass. The recommendation for fluid intake is 750ml (25oz) of fluid (1.5L x 0.5) for optimal recovery.

On the runner's next run, they could maximise recovery speed and diminish the effects of dehydration by drinking 1000ml (250ml every 15 minutes), an increase of 500ml. This approach would mean the runner only needs another 250ml of fluid post-training.

It is worth remembering that different sports require different hydration strategies and fluid intake – so tailor your intake to your specific sports by experimenting.

Although weighing yourself may seem a little bit of a chore, once you have found your sweat rate you only need to check your weight once a month to adjust for changes in your fitness level.

All in all, hydration has a real impact on your stamina, energy, recovery speed and health. The good news is it doesn't have to be a chore to stay hydrated and optimise your fluid intake

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