Hydration for Optimal Performance
Many factors impact our need to hydrate our bodies properly. Environmental toxins, pollution, processed foods, soft drinks, fruit juices, climate, genetics, bodyweight and size, and activity level all influence how much we need to drink each day.
The immediate symptoms of dehydration include dry skin, constipation, fatigue and headaches. If you are chronically dehydrated you may experience inflammatory issues such as allergies, asthma, indigestion, and chronic pain. Digestive issues, problems with cartilage and with the intervertebral discs, compromised immunity, maintenance of body temperature, and circulation are all affected by our hydration levels.
As an athlete you may be thinking “who cares, what impact does it have on my performance?”
Well outside of the fatigue that is often associated with dehydration, hydration is the greatest determinant of strength. I learnt this from Charles Poliquin. A drop of 1.5% in water levels translates into a drop of 10% of your maximal strength. The leaner you are, the worse it is. Make sure you weigh the same or more at the end of your training session. High water levels = more sets & reps = greater changes.
Optimal athletic performance cannot be achieved with suboptimal levels of hydration since all the body's functions depend on adequate fluid levels. Avoiding dehydration will allow you to maintain peak power levels during repeated anaerobic efforts.
Greater hydration will allow you to train harder and longer, and there is evidence that dehydration causes cardiovascular stress as well as deterioration in central nervous system function.
How to stay hydrated
We individualise the amount of water we give our clients based on bodyweight but as a general rule of thumb for an athlete I’d say they need 3L per day on average. This may need to be increased during hot and dry climates and also if the training load is high.
It is important not to wait until you have a dry mouth or are thirsty before you have a drink. Thirst is considered to be a warning sign of dangerously low levels of water, not the first sign. It is best to sip on water throughout the day to keep levels optimal.
Drinking from a stainless steel water bottle is also a better option than drinking from plastic bottles as the plastic leaches into the water when it gets hot. This is a whole other topic but plastic is something you don’t want in your body.