What are you drinking for endurance?
While water and milk have traditionally been trusted to hydrate and replenish athlete’s bodies, branded sports drinks and nutrient-rich coconut water are now in vogue.
For anyone taking part in events that last more than one hour, hydration can be a real conundrum. Runners, cyclists and triathletes particularly have to manage their fluid intake to help them deliver performance and to recover effectively.While there is often emphasis on race day nutrition, many athletes often overlook the importance of hydration as part of their training.
- We get around 80% of our hydration from drinks while a vital 20% comes from moisture-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables.
- Sodium levels help regulate how much hydration our bodies hold and also influences how much we urinate out.
- Our bodies can absorb more hydration when drinks are cool rather than hot or at room temperature.
- Sipping fluids across the day is preferable to gulping ahead of a training session or race.
- Drinks that deliver a mix of carbohydrate and electrolytes help promote recovery after endurance activities.
P is for performance
In the weeks leading up to an event, athletes should use training sessions to test hydration and experiment with different drinks – don’t leave it until race day. Knowing the colour of your urine is a simple test; pale or straw coloured urine suggests you’re well hydrated but a dark, apple juice colour may hint at some dehydration. Athletes should get to know what’s normal for them.
Endurance runners, cyclists or triathletes need good levels of sodium to help regulate hydration. This vital electrolyte can be typically accessed in sufficient quantities through a regular diet so there’s no need to over-salt the chips. Sodium is also important in limiting the need to go to the loo. By contrast, low electrolyte levels ahead of a heavy training session or event could lead to cramps or dangerous over-hydration.
After a race or big training session, it’s vital to make intelligent choices to rehydrate the body. Some of the best drinks deliver carbohydrate to replace depleted muscle glycogen and protein to administer first aid to damaged tissues.
In recent times, coconut water has become a favourite choice to aid recovery as it’s rich in natural fruit sugars, vitamins and electrolytes.
Vitally, everyone has different hydration needs. Athletes should make time to experiment with hydration and respond to their thirst.
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