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When it comes to exercise, adequate hydration is considered of utmost importance. However, as hydration varies across individuals due to a variety of personal and environmental factors, athletes aren’t able to adequately rehydrate, leaving their performance to suffer.

It’s important to measure these internal and external influences, understand how they specifically impact performance and establish a plan to get your sporting performance where it deserves to be. Here is a quick guide of how hydration affects the body, the crucial role sodium plays in this process, and how you can individualise and maximise your hydration plan.

How Hydration Influences Performances

Blood volume maintenance, muscle contraction, and body temperature regulation are a crucial element of exercise that hydration directly influences. For example, as the body’s primary temperature regulation method during exercise is sweating, you need to be replacing these fluids that are being lost, otherwise the risk of heat stress can increase and performance can decrease as a result of dehydration and impaired muscle function. Simply drinking fluid is one of the most effective options when it comes to fluid replacement, overall significantly reducing the risk of these situations arising.

How You Can Maximise Hydration To Improve Performance

With the countless range of sport drinks available, all designed for maximising hydration for exercise, it can quickly become a puzzling decision when it comes to selecting a product to suit your individual needs.

Hydration requirements will vary due to the sweat rates of various individuals. As sweating can be influenced by a number of factors such as temperature, body size, personal fitness and exercise intensity, there is no sole solution for hydration that will suit the needs of everyone. By taking these factors into account, you can be aware of your own hydration throughout the various stages of exercise. Sweat rate can be determined by fitness professional through measuring sweat while training in a variety of different environmental conditions. From here, a plan can be made.

With all these different sport drinks available, how will you know which product is going to suit your needs best? Before choosing a drink, take into account the duration and intensity of your workout and whether there will be a need to replace both electrolytes and carbohydrates. Plain water can be very effective in hydrating for low-intensity workouts, whereas sports drinks containing both carbohydrates and sodium can have a beneficial impact on performance during high intensity or endurance based workouts. The addition of sodium is important, as this element doesn’t only assist with water absorption throughout your gut, but it can also help your body to retain this fluid by decreasing urination.

When Should You Be Hydrating?

When it comes to timing your hydration, you should begin the workout already hydrated. To organise your hydration plan throughout an exercise routine, you should take into account your individual sweat rate and the conditions you’re exercising in beforehand. For example, if you’re working out in conditions that are rather hot and humid, your sweat rate is likely to increase, therefore you will have to adjust your hydration plan to accommodate. Finally, rehydrate after exercising to maximise the number of electrolytes you lost.

There’s no need to go over the top with your hydration plan. Going into a work-out overhydrated won’t benefit your performance, and it may deliver some negative effects. Over-hydrating while exercising can result in a condition called hyponatremia. It commonly arises when an individual is exercising in colder weather, when intensity is lower, and athletes are drinking more fluid than what is necessary. This ultimately dilutes the sodium levels in the bloodstream and can lead to mild symptoms such as headaches and disorientation. In severe cases, hyponatremia can cause coma and death. This isn’t always as common as dehydration, although it’s important to keep in mind when hydrating.

Optimising Your Hydration Plan

Tailoring your hydration plan to suit your individual needs is a process that takes time. You gradually need to understand your body’s unique needs by listening to various signals. First off, you should aim for a pale yellow coloured urine before exercising, as this signifies a good level of hydration. Avoid consuming too much fluid before commencing exercise otherwise performance may become impaired through gastrointestinal discomfort. As you continue to exercise, fluids will be lost via sweat and urine so you should aim to replace at least 125% of these fluids over four to six hours post-exercise.

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